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The forgotten track to Pakistan

By Prakash Bhandari

The Times of India News Service

JAIPUR: With the Delhi-Lahore bus about to become a reality, the people of west Rajasthan are now hoping for the reopening of the closed rail link between Munabao and Khokhraparkar, the last railway station on the Pakistani side.

The distance between Munabao in Barmer district and Khokhraparkar in Sindh is barely 11 km and the railway line is lying unused since the 1965 war. The rail link was established by a former maharaja of Jodhpur and provided access to people right upto Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh.

Last year, the issue of reopening the Munabao-Khokhraparkar route came up during the talks Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

``When in operation, the metre- gauge railway line used to ferry about 1,500 passengers from both sides. People from Sindh who wanted to come to erstwhile Rajputana would travel by this route,'' said Ram Chandra Bora, a veteran freedom fighter who once worked in the area as a signal inspector.

A number of Hindus who opted to live in Pakistan availed the train facility while a number of Sindhi Muslims and Miranis from the Indian side travelled to Pakistan.

A migrant from Pakistan remembered having seen in 1964 the table of the station master of Hyderabad railway station in Sindh using the same large wooden table which had the seal `JR' (Jodhpur Railway) inscribed on it. The erstwhile Jodhpur Railway territory extended upto Hyderabad.

``We came from Hyderabad in Sindh to Jodhpur by this rail route. A majority of Sindhis who migrated to India also came by this route and then spread to various parts of the country,'' said Sewaram Poptiani, a foodgrain trader here.

After the 1971 war, Pakistan signed an agreement to open the rail links. But while the Wagah- Atari route was opened, the Munabao-Khokhraparkar rail link remained closed.

In 1986, the then Pakistan prime minister Mohammed Khan Junejo had announced that the Sindh-Rajasthan link would be re-started. After this, Indian Railways speent Rs 15 lakh on renovating Munabao station. But all this went in vain. During Benazir Bhutto's prime ministership, Sindhis and Mohajirs had also demanded the reopening of the link. But Ms Bhutto came under pressure from the army which was said to be against the move. The Mohajir migrants from UP, MP, Rajasthan and Delhi who have relations in India had said it would be economical for them to travel via Sindh and reach India from where they could board a train from Jodhpur for their respective destinations. The present Samjhauta Express train that runs between Lahore and Delhi is not very covenient for people from Sindh.

If the rail line is reopened, the large number of Pakistanis who visit Ajmer to offer prayers at the Dargah will benefit as the distance they have to travel will be halved.

As for industrialists, they too want the link reopened. ``It will encourage trade between the two countries. Earlier also, trade between the two countries flourished because of the rail link,'' said Arun Agarwal, an industrialist from Jodhpur.

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dustrialist from Jodhpur.

English News Page | Scanned Newspapers | Urdu News | | Interests

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1999 Green World Publishers Inc.
Send your comments to editor@millat.com