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.


Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 06 August 2020

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.