Pakistan stops Samjhauta Express, stalls access to Kulbhushan Jadhav
Pakistan on Thursday took more retaliatory actions in response to India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, halting the main cross-border train service and snapping talks on consular access to former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, sentenced to death by a military court for alleged espionage.
A ban on the screening of Indian movies was also among actions announced by Pakistani authorities against the backdrop of tensions between the two sides. Late on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said at an interaction with journalists that Pakistan does not want war but will give a befitting response if India imposes it, Geo News reported.
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Pakistan railways minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference the Samjhauta Express – a bi-weekly train service started in 1976 and whose name means “agreement” – would be stopped. “We have decided to shut down Samjhauta Express… As long as I am railways minister, Samjhauta Express can’t run,” he said.
People familiar with developments said Pakistan had decided to end talks with India on consular access to Jadhav, on death row after being convicted of alleged involvement in spying. The International Court of Justice recently ruled that Pakistan had violated Jadhav’s rights to consular access and sought a review of his death sentence.
“Talks were going on for consular access, but they have ended as of now,” one of the people said on condition of anonymity.
De-facto information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan tweeted: “No Indian film will be screened in any Pakistani theatre. Drama, films and Indian content of this kind will be completely banned in Pakistan.”
The actions came a day after Pakistan asked India to withdraw its envoy and downgraded diplomatic ties. It also suspended two-day trade and said it would review all bilateral arrangements. India on Thursday asked Pakistan to review these decisions.
Outlining Pakistan’s future course of action, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news conference: “We’re not looking at the military option. We’re not.” He added Pakistan is looking at “political, diplomatic and legal options”.
After Pakistan announced it was stopping the Samjhauta Express, the train was stranded at Wagah on the Pakistani side of the border for several hours. Indian officials insisted the service was not suspended and the train would run as usual.
An Indian crew finally brought the train with 117 passengers, including 48 Pakistanis, to Attari on the Indian side in the evening. Subsequently, the train left Attari for Wagah with 103 passengers, including 10 Pakistanis, Indian officials said.
The Lahore-Delhi bus service ran uninterrupted and a bus left the Indian capital with four passengers on Thursday morning. Indian officials said another bus is scheduled to leave for Lahore on Friday with more than 35 passengers.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal also told a news briefing that Islamabad will continue work on the Kartarpur corridor, which is scheduled to open in November to allow Indian pilgrims to visit the Gurudwara built at the site in Pakistan where Guru Nanak spent his last years.