Train from Karachi arrives in Munabao
Link restored with Pakistan after 41 years
MUNABAO (RAJASTHAN): Forty-one years after the disruption of rail link on the western border, the much-awaited Thar Express from Pakistan steamed across the desert sands to arrive at the Munabao railway station on Saturday to a tumultuous welcome by the people of India. Hundreds of excited people cheered and clapped as the decked up train rolled into the platform marking the resumption of the train service snapped since 1965.
The train, which crossed Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas and Khokhrapar towns in Sindh province after starting from Karachi on Friday night, reached here one hour behind schedule in the afternoon. The revival of rail link is set to reunite the divided families across the borders, besides giving a fillip to the friendly relations emerging between the two countries as part of the confidence building measures.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, accompanied by a host of dignitaries, was present at the railway station to witness the historic moment and welcome the travelers from Pakistan. An estimated 200 passengers, including 62 members of a delegation of the Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy and a few journalists, came on the goodwill train's inaugural run.
Local folk musicians sang songs and a Border Security Force band played the tune of famous Rajasthani folk song "Padhaaro Mhaarey Des" (welcome to my land) as the 10-bogie green and yellow train no. 6205 from Pakistan came to a halt at the spruced up platform. The Pakistani travelers standing on footboards waved and extended their hands to the people at railway station.
"It is indeed a historic occasion. This train has restored a lost link which was of immense significance for the divided families," a visibly cheerful guard of the train, Khalid Pervez, told The Hindu. The driver, Jaan Shehzad, and assistant driver, Mohammed Shareef, were equally pleased while pointing out that the train had received a great reception at each railway station on the way.
Iqbal Haider, secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and former Federal Minister — who was a member of the Pakistani delegation — said the friendly ties would help in people's welfare on both sides of the border. The delegation will visit Jaipur and other important towns in Rajasthan to spread the message of peace and harmony.
Balloons and pigeons were released into the sky and a large number of villagers stood on sand dunes outside the fences put up at the railway station as Mr. Lalu Prasad flagged off the train on its return journey to Pakistan carrying the 241 Indian passengers who arrived at Munabao after an overnight journey in the Thar Express train of Indian Railways that started from Jodhpur.
Mr. Lalu Prasad, interacting with reporters in one of the newly built halls at the railway station, pointed out that the train would bridge the gap between the people in the two countries even as the two governments were "persistently making progress" on all other issues. He said the railways had the plan to start goods trains on the route in future to promote the trade ties.
Both the incoming and outgoing passengers echoed the sentiments of reviving the long-lost relations between the families and building up bridges of understanding between the two nations. Mohammed Basheer from Jodhpur, who was one of the first passengers to buy the journey ticket, said he would attend several marriages of relatives during his visit to Karachi, while Luqman Khan and Bairam Khan of Ramsar village in Barmer district would be meeting their 75-year-old sister, living at Chhachhro in Sindh, for the first time.
Bhagwan Das of Dokri village in Mirpur Khas district of Pakistan said he would be visiting his brothers settled in Gujarat after several years. Qamarunnisa from Karachi, accompanied by her husband and three children, said she would be meeting her aunts at Makrana in Nagaur district of Rajasthan after a gap of 35 years.
Each of the passengers, getting clearance through customs and immigration, had a story — emanating from the history of the partition of the subcontinent — to share. The bulk of the divided families of Mohajirs (refugees), who had migrated from the Indian heartland, are living in the urban areas of Sindh and the restored link provides them a shorter route to India in comparison with the existing route via the Wagah border.