At least 21 members of Peshawar’s Sikh community along with a Muslim van driver lost their lives on Friday when the Lahore-bound Shah Hussain Express train crashed into their vehicle as it attempted to cross train tracks near Sheikhupura, authorities said.
The passengers of the van had been travelling from Peshawar to Nankana Sahib to attend a funeral.
According to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a total of 27 individuals, including the driver and his helper, were on board when the collision occurred near the Farooqabad Railway Station.
“The crossing was unmanned and the driver of the van took a hasty decision by driving onto the tracks,” Pakistan Railways spokeswoman Quratul Ain told .
ETPB Deputy Secretary Shrines, Imran Gondal, said that all Sikh travellers were Pakistani nationals and residents of Peshawar. All the deceased members of the Sikh community are said to be from one family.
At 10:30pm, Chairman ETPB Dr Aamer Ahmed “will send the bodies of 21 deceased Sikhs in C-130 plane to Peshawar from Lahore”, said a statement. “One body is being sent to Nankana,” it added.
The statement said that five injured in the accident are stable and under treatment.
Van driver’s ‘negligence’ The Sheikhupura district police officer said that “the accident was caused by the (van) driver’s negligence”. He said that the driver “tried to go over the tracks in a hurry” after the crossing was shut.
Chairman Punjabi Sikh Sangat Gopal Singh also said the driver “is the culprit in the accident”. “The driver left the main road and tried to cross the track,” Singh said.
According to the ETPB statement, the driver “died as a result of collision between the train and highroof near Sacha Sauda, Farooqabad, in Sheikhupura district”.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “deeply saddened” to hear of the accident. He extended condolences and prayers to the families of the deceased and directed authorities to provide the best possible medical treatment to the wounded.
The premier also vowed to “immediately” review the entire railway’s operational safety. President Dr Arif Alvi also expressed grief over the loss of lives, urging officials to provide best facilities to the affectees of the incident.
Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa extended his “condolences to the bereaved families” for the precious loss of lives in the tragic incident, a statement by the military’s media wing said. He also prayed for the early recovery of the injured.
The Chinese embassy in Pakistan also said it is “saddened at the tragic train accident”.
“Our condolences and sympathies go to the victims and their families and we wish a quick recovery of the injured,” it said.
After the accident, the district administration also established a control room at the deputy commissioner’s office. Human rights minister Shireen Mazari expressed shock at the “horrific” accident in which so many innocent lives were list.
“Railway crossings both manned and unmanned need strict implementation of SOPs and PM has rightfully directed a review of all railway safety procedures,” she said. PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif also expressed his sorrow over the news. “I extend my most sincere sympathies to the bereaved families on their irreparable loss,” he said.