Pakistan halts India train service, bans films over Kashmir move

Pakistani foreign minister says Islamabad looking at all ‘diplomatic and legal options’ to pressure India.

Samjhauta Express
Passengers stand with their luggage after alighting from the Samjhauta Express, a train that runs between Delhi in India and Lahore in Pakistan, in Attari [Prabhjot Gill/ AP]

Pakistan has suspended its main train service to India and banned Indian films as it kept up the diplomatic pressure on New Delhi for revoking the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir.

“No Indian cinema will be screened in any Pakistani cinema. Drama, films and Indian content of this kind will be completely banned in Pakistan,” Firdous Ashiq Awan, an adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement came as Minister of Railways Sheikh Rasheed announced the government’s decision “to shut down Samjhauta Express”, referring to the train running to India’s capital, New Delhi, from the Pakistani city of Lahore.

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government withdrew the Muslim-majority state’s right to frame its own laws and allowed people from outside the region to buy property there.

Kashmir remained under a communications blackout on Thursday with mobile networks and internet services suspended and at least 300 politicians and separatists in detention to prevent protests, according to police, the media and political leaders. 

India and Pakistan both claim the region in full but have ruled it in part since independence from Britain in 1947. The nuclear-armed neighbours fought two of their three wars over the contested territory. And Indian forces have been engaged in a 30-year conflict with rebels in Indian-administered Kashmir who want independence or a merger with Pakistan. 

Pakistan said on Wednesday it would expel India’s ambassador in Islamabad and its envoy, who was to start his assignment soon, would not move to New Delhi. Islamabad also suspended bilateral trade, in the latest spike in tensions between the nuclear rivals.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad that Pakistan “is looking at political, diplomatic and legal options”, ruling out a new military conflict.

“We’re not looking at the military option. We’re not,” he said. 

India said changing the status of Kashmir was an internal affair and aimed at developing the region. It urged Pakistan to reconsider its decision to downgrade diplomatic ties, striking a conciliatory tone.

“The Government of India regrets the steps announced by Pakistan yesterday and would urge that country to review them so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved,” the foreign ministry said.

Kashmiris see Modi’s decision to withdraw the special status as a breach of trust and opening the way to flooding their region with people from the rest of India, eventually altering the demographics of the territory.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies