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Pakistan shuts down Samjhauta Express 'forever' amid spiralling tension

This file photo dated 24 August, 2003 shows a Pakistani border soldier standing guard beside the Samjhauta Express train at the Wagah Border checkpost. Photograph:( AFP )

WION New Delhi/Islamabad Aug 08, 2019, 04.03 PM (IST) Written By: Anas Mallick , Sidhant Sibal

In a big blow to people to people contact between arch rivals Pakistan and India, Imran Khan-led government announced that it's shutting down Samjhauta Express--the bi-weekly train that connects Delhi in India to Lahore in Pakistan -- ''forever''.

In a tweet, the Pakistan Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said, "Pakistan to shutdown Samjhota Express". He said the service will be closed "forever"

Those who have already brought Samjhota Express tickets will be refunded without any deduction, he added.

The development comes amid escalating tension between India and Pakistan after Modi government abrogated Article 370 that gave a special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution.   

Meanwhile, Indian Railways is sending its crew after Pakistani crew of the Samjhauta Express that left Lahore at 9.15am Pakistan time refused to ply the train to India citing security issues. 

Dismissing the security concern, Indian railway authorities have sent Indian crew and own engine to bring the train from Wagah to Attari on the Indian side. The train reached Wagah with 110 passengers. 

Samjhauta express was discontinued after the attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. Service was later resumed in 2014 but again suspended after the assassination of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto. 

In 2019, Pakistan again suspended the service after its forces attacked Indian military installation on February 27 in retaliation to India's counterterror strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed camps in Balakot.

The service was started in 1976 as part of the Shimla Agreement and initially ran between Amritsar and Lahore.