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July 1, 1999
Delhi transport minister wants to stop Lahore bus
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Delhi Transport Minister Parvez Haashmi has called for the suspension of the Delhi-Lahore bus service, at least temporarily, with immediate effect. The airconditioned bus service between Delhi and Lahore was launched with much fanfare by the two countries after the signing of the Lahore Declaration by Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharief earlier this year.
Speaking to rediff.com, Haashmi said he will be taking up the matter with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit at the earliest. "I will raise the matter with the chief minister today or tomorrow. Since this bus service comes under my charge, I am naturally concerned about the security of the passengers who travel by it," he said.
Asked what prompted him to suddenly change his mind, Haashmi. said if the Pakistani intelligence agencies had not beaten up an Indian visa officer, <../jun/29kash6.htm">Doraiswamy and then branded him a spy before asking him to be withdrawn from the high commission, he certainly would not have raised the matter.
" When they can beat up one of our officers in the Indian high commission, what is the guarantee that similar incidents may not take place with passengers who are travelling by the Delhi Transport Corporation bus to Pakistan? Under the Geneva Convention Pakistan has to protect our officers from such incidents. What is more reprehensible is that those who beat up Doraiswamy were people from the Pakistani intelligence agencies. When Pakistan can look the other way when our officer is beaten up, what is the guarantee they will spare our passengers," he asked.
Haashmi is a worried man because if anything happens to the Delhi-Lahore bus passengers he would be held morally responsible for it. "Everyone remembers how the fundamentalists in Pakistan had opposed the bus service when Vajpayee travelled by bus to Pakistan. They created ugly scenes on the streets. These people have no credibility. When they keep on betraying us all the time, how can I believe that the passengers who travel on our buses are safe," he wonders.
The bus service runs twice a week on reciprocal basis. Haashmi claimed the bus service was very popular and booking was done almost two weeks in advance. "I am not aware of any cancellation of tickets. But I am sure the passengers who travel by this bus are now definitely scared. Some of them rang me up to ask if it would be safe to travel by the bus after the Doraiswamy incident, and I had no answer to give them. I have already spoken to some of my cabinet colleagues and they all are of the opinion that the Union government must seek some sort of assurance from the government of Pakistan that passengers travelling from Delhi to Lahore will not be harassed. As far as India is concerned, their passengers are safe and they can travel without any fear. But enhanced security for our bus passengers is a must," he asserts time and again.
Sources in the Bhartiya Janata Party told rediff.com that they would endorse the move to suspend the bus service temporarily. "After all, what is the point of running a bus service as a symbol of friendship between the two countries when the Indian army and air force are engaged in a battle in Kargil? If the Delhi government puts up a proposal to suspend the bus service, the BJP will promptly approve of it, provided the Congress does not sabotage it to get some political mileage," said a senior BJP functionary.
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