Train hits bus carrying Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan: 22 dead

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Residents gather around the wreckage of a van alongside a railway track following the accident between a train and the van transporting Sikh pilgrims in Farooqabad area in Sheikhupura district of the Pakistan's Punjab province on July 3, 2020. (AFP)
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Residents gather around and take photos of the wreckage of a van alongside a railway track following the accident between a train and a van transporting Sikh pilgrims in Farooqabad area in Sheikhupura district of the Pakistan's Punjab province on July 3, 2020. (AFP)
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Residents gather around the wreckage of a van alongside a railway track following the accident between a train and the van transporting Sikh pilgrims in Farooqabad area in Sheikhupura district of the Pakistan's Punjab province on July 3, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Train hits bus carrying Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan: 22 dead

  • TV footage showed the train and the badly destroyed bus on the railway track
  • Sikhs have several shrines of their religious leaders in Pakistan

LAHORE: A passenger train crashed into a bus carrying Sikh pilgrims at an unmanned railway crossing in eastern Pakistan on Friday, killing 22 people, including seven women, officials said. At least six pilgrims were injured.
The accident happened in the district of Sheikhupura in Punjab province, according to Raja Ijaz, an official at the state-run emergency service. Ghazi Salahuddin, the district police chief, said the dead and injured were taken to a nearby hospital.
The Sikh pilgrims were from the northwestern city of Peshawar and were returning home from a visit to the shrine of Nankana Sahib in Sheikhupura. Officials said the injured were later transported to a hospital in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, where two critically injured died, increasing the death toll to 22.
Asghar Joya, a government official in Sheikhupura, said an initial assessment indicated the bus driver tried to cross the railway tracks as the train neared but the bus skidded and got stuck. He said, however, that officials were still investigating. He said authorities will provide a plane to take the bodies to Peshawar, where dozens of relatives of the victims had gathered to mourn their loved ones.
TV footage showed the train and the badly destroyed bus on the railway tracks.
Sheikhupura resident Dilbir Singh said the pilgrims, after visiting the shrine and before leaving for Peshawar, had also visited the home of a relative whose family member had recently died.
Pakistan's President Arif Ali and Prime Minister Imran Khan issued statements expressing their sorrow and ordering local authorities provide the best possible treatment for the injured.
Sikhs have several shrines of their religious leaders in Pakistan. One, of Sikh founder Guru Nanak, built after he died in the 16th century, is located in the Punjab village of Kartarpur, on the border with India.
Many Sikh holy sites became part of Pakistan after the British partitioned the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 following two centuries of colonial rule. Ties between the rival nuclear-armed neighbors deteriorated sharply after India revoked the disputed Kashmir region’s semi-autonomous status in early August.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, mainly due to lack of enforcement of safety standards, a poorly kept railroad system and negligence of drivers. In February, a train crashed into a bus carrying passengers at an unmanned railway crossing in the district of Rohri in southern Pakistan, killing 19 people and injuring 28 others.
Last November, a fire caused by a cooking gas stove swept through a train in Punjab, killing 74 people. Survivors at the time said it took nearly 20 minutes for the train to stop; there were also contradictory reports about the condition of the train’s brakes.


France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

Updated 19 September 2020

France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

  • Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a ‘double standard’ by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members

JEDDAH: France on Friday backed Cyprus’ calls for the EU to consider imposing tougher sanctions on Turkey if the Turkish government won’t suspend its search for energy reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters where Cyprus and Greece claim exclusive economic rights.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said sanctions should be among the options the 27-member bloc considers employing if Turkey continues to “endanger the security and sovereignty of a member state.”

“But we consider that the union should also be ready to use all the instruments at its disposal, among them one of sanctions, if the situation didn’t evolve positively,” Beaune said after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia.

A European Parliament resolution has called for sanctions against Turkey unless it showed “sincere cooperation and concrete progress” in defusing tensions with Greece and Cyprus.

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and now analyst at Carnegie Europe, said the resolution reflected the views of a democratically elected parliament from across the bloc. “This is not ‘country X against country Y,’ it is the aggregated view of the European Parliament,” he told Arab News.

EU leaders are set to hold a summit in a few days to discuss how to respond to Turkey prospecting in areas of the sea that Greece and Cyprus insist are only theirs to explore.

Turkey triggered a naval stand-off with NATO ally Greece after dispatching a warship-escorted research vessel in a part of the eastern Mediterranean that Greece says is over its continental shelf. Greece deployed its own warship and naval patrols in response.

Greek and Turkish military officers are also holding talks at NATO headquarters to work out ways of ensuring that any standoff at sea doesn’t descend into open conflict.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Turkey’s withdrawal of its survey ship and warship escorts was a positive step, but that Greece needs to make sure Ankara is sincere.

He said a list of sanctions will be put before EU leaders at next week’s summit and whether they’ll be implemented will depend on Turkey’s actions. “I’m hoping that it won’t become necessary to reach that point,” Dendias said.

Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a “double standard” by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud and police brutality while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members.

Meanwhile, the EU is set to announce sanctions on Monday against three companies from Turkey, Jordan and Kazakhstan which are accused of violating a UN arms embargo on Libya, diplomats told AFP.