New Delhi/ Jaipur:
The Karachi-bound Thar Express with 165 passengers on-board received clearance from Pakistan on Saturday for onward journey, officials said. Pakistan on Friday had announced suspension of all train services to India after the Centre scrapped provisions of Article 370 and divided Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories. Pakistan's Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said in Islamabad that this would be the last Jodhpur-Karachi train.
The train will reach the zero point, at the international border with Pakistan, where passengers will change trains. The train from Pakistan reached the zero point at 10 am, the officials said. The train reached Munabao, the last station on the Indian side of the border, at 6.55 am after departing from Bhagat Ki Kothi station in Jodhpur at 1 am and was awaiting clearance from Pakistan, they said.
The clearance was received at 3.05 pm, a North Western Railway spokesperson said, adding that the train departed soon after. The Thar Express has been running between Jodhpur and Karachi every Saturday morning (1 am) since services resumed on February 18, 2006 after a 41-year suspension.
According to estimates, over four lakh passengers have taken the train in the past 13 years. Among the 165 passengers, 81 are Indians, who are visiting their relatives in Pakistan. Eighty-four Pakistan nationals are returning to their country after completion of their visa limit in India, a railway official has said.
As the passengers boarded the train at Bhagat ki Kothi station, there were concerns that the journey could even end at Munabao in Barmer district, amid uncertainties over strained ties between the two countries.