Nirupama Subramanian

Rules out interrogation of its nationals

  • Pakistan Rangers to handle security on Samjhauta Express
  • Paramilitary deployed to check coaches and luggage at Lahore

    ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has ruled out the interrogation by Indian investigators of any of its nationals who survived the Samjhauta train attack.

    Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said this to a private channel here on Thursday from New Delhi, where she is part of Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri's delegation.

    "We would not allow anyone to further exacerbate the pain and grief of the injured from the Samjhauta train," Ms. Aslam said.

    Apparently speaking on the assumption that all those questioned would be treated only as "suspects", she said only "a very twisted mind" would implicate those people for the attack "whose entire families were burnt alive" in the attack.

    "There is no suspect among the injured," she said. The interviewer did not ask if any of these people could, as witnesses to the attack, have important evidence that would help the Indian investigators.

    For four more coaches

    Pakistan Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid said the Samjhauta Express attack had made clear the need for four additional coaches to the train, so that it would have 13 instead of the present nine.

    Mr. Rashid told journalists that many passengers with unreserved seats were travelling in the reserved compartments, and this had made the identification of the dead in the two carriages that were firebombed a more complicated process.

    The Railways Minister said he would place the proposal for extra coaches before President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

    He also announced that henceforth, the Pakistan Rangers, its border security force, would handle security on the Samjhauta Express and the Thar Express, which travels between Khokrapar in Sindh province and Munabao in Rajasthan.

    The Rangers were reported to have already taken over security-related tasks on the Samjhauta Express. Paramilitary forces have been deployed to check coaches and passenger luggage at Lahore.

    The Rangers are also to escort the train the short distance up to the Pakistan border, rail officials were reported as saying.

    With the bodies returning to Pakistan in batches, emotions are running high, with accusations about the laxity of Indian security, allegations that the passengers were locked inside as well as allegations of corruption against those deployed on security duty at the Old Delhi Railway station.

    One of the few consolations for India was a letter in the Dawn newspaper on Thursday from a reader in Karachi, who said that the only call his bereaved neighbour he tried various helplines and offices in vain had received was from the Indian High Commissioner's office expressing condolences.