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Thar Express chugs in with 257 on board
Munabao-Khokhrapar rail line restored after 41 years
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

Munabao, (India-Pakistan Border), February 18
The much awaited Thar Express carrying 257 passengers from Karachi in Pakistan arrived at the Munabao station here on Saturday afternoon to a grand reception.

As the green and lemon Pakistan Railway train decorated with colourful paper bunting pulled up at the station, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad greeted the Pakistani guests by waving his hands.

His deputies, Ministers of State for Railways R. Velu and Narayan B. Rathwa and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje Scindia joined him in greeting the Pakistani passengers by waving their hands.

The Pakistani passengers aboard the train expressed their joy by waving back with Pakistani flags as Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil, Railway Board Chairman Joginder P. Batra, General Manager of North Western Railway S. Bhattacharya and other senior railway officers looked on.

Sensing that people from nearby villages Ramasar, Gagriya, Gadra, Jaisindher were eager to see the train carrying passengers from across the border after a long gap of 41 years, Lalu ordered that the tent cloth shielding their view of the train be torn down. The Rajasthan police lost no time in carrying out the instructions and tore down the tenth cloth to enable the gathering catch a glimpse of the train.

Within an hour of the arrival of the train from Pakistan, the Railway Minister flagged it off and celebrated the historic occasion by freeing pigeons and releasing balloons.

The train carrying more than 150 Indian passengers left for Khokhrapar at 3.45 pm. The Indian passengers boarded the train from the starting point at Jodhpur and reached Munabao at 7.30 am. After immigration and customs clearence, they boarded the Khokhrapar bound Thar Express.

Passengers who arrived by the Pakistan Railway train boarded the Indian train bound for Jodhpur only on Saturday evening. These include a 62-member delegation from the Pakistan-India People Forum for Peace and Democracy.

Minister of Company Affairs Prem Chand Gupta read out Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s message expressing joy over the restoration of the Munnabao-Khokhrapar rail link.

In his message, Dr Singh has described the rail link as “the revival of a lifeline between communities who have lived as neighbours for centuries.”

The PM has said that the Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad, the Amritsar-Lahore bus link and many other connectivities that have been established will help in strengthening the bond of friendship between the neighbours. “It is my dream that India and Pakistan will live forever as good neighbours since both our past and our future are linked by our common destinies.”

Minister of State for Railways Narayan Bhai Rathwa read out UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s message conveying her happiness over the restoration of the Munabao-Khokrapar rail link. Mrs Gandhi has said that the restoration of the train is an initiative that holds special significance.

Addressing a large gathering of villagers at the station, Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani expressed gratitude to the Railway Minister on behalf of the entire Sindhi community.

He said if India succeeds in creating the desired atmosphere between the two countries, the Kashmir problem will be solved.

A former MP, Col Sona Ram Choudhary, urged Railway Minister Lalu Yadav to provide a halt at Barmer to save the passengers the trouble of travelling 329 km till Jodhpur to board the Thar Express. He also requested the Centre to facilitate issuance of visas at Barmer and Jodhpur. This would save the people of Barnmer the trouble of travelling over 800 km to New Delhi for getting a Pakisatni visa.

Mr Manvendra Singh, MP from Barmer, told TNS that the restoration of the train between Munabao and Khokrapar was one of his main poll promises. He said he would like to take his children aboard the train during their vacations to meet close relatives in Amarkot in Pakistan.

After the public function, Lalu hosted a lunch for the passengers of the Jodhpur and Khokrapar bound train. The Pakistani guests were also given a souvenir of a camel in white metal.

Seema Sher, a member of the Pakistan-India People Forum for Peace and Democracy, asked Lalu Prasad why there was any need for visa formalities between India and Pakistan when people of the two countries shared such good relations, Seema was carrying a Pakistani flag that carried a positive message for the people of the two countries. The message in Urdu read, ‘Nayeen Manzilen, Naye Raaste.’ (New summits, new routes).

Zubair Ahmed Mujahid, Bureau Chief of The Daily Jang, told TNS that they were greeted at all stations, including Hyderabad and Mirpur Khas, by people who raised slogans as ‘Pakistan-India dosti zindabad.’

He said the immigration officers and men of the Border Security Force gave them passes introducing them as ‘special guests.’
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