During whole of my backpacking life, I have had many tough journeys but the train journey from Lahore to Islamabad last weekend turned out to be the worst.
I left Islamabad at dawn and reached Lahore in the afternoon without any issues using public transport. I completed my work and went back to the bus terminal around 4 PM just to find that they have closed the service. Upon inquiring, they mentioned the reason that motorway and GT road have been closed by the administration because of the upcoming planned march by Tahir-ul-Qadri and his party. They had already closed all the petrol pumps and fuel supply was stopped a day earlier.
I rushed towards the other bus terminal nearby only to find it closed too. It was panic everywhere with people wondering what to do. People were shocked and struck. With nothing more to do in Lahore and pending stuff to take care of back in Islamabad, I started thinking about the alternatives. The only option that came in my mind was of going back by train. I immediately hired a rickshaw for train station and reached there in another thirty minutes hoping to catch the evening rail car.
Upon reaching the station, I realized that I was not the only smart enough man to come up with this idea. There were long queues and people were flocking in to get the tickets. I got immediately into the queue and was able to get ticket after waiting for whole hour. At least the service was running but. There was a guy ahead of me in the queue who had even boarded the bus that dropped all passengers and returned their fares after 10 minutes of drive.
It was another scene on the platform. With the flock of people desperately waiting for the train, it was immediately clear that I will have to fight in to get a seat or even a space to stand. I felt sorry for the women and children who were part of the waiting crowd. The train arrived and it was a panic scene everywhere. People rushed to the doors and forced their entry in whatever way they could. I too had to get in using the window.
Inside the train, people got in to the extent where there was no space anymore. Lucky were those who got the seats. Rest were standing on the ways or near the doors – including women and children. This was one of the worst journeys of my life. People were cursing the rulers and their indifference to the plight of people. At least they could have announced this closure earlier and people would have planned accordingly. There were other better ways as well to handle the crisis. But then had they been any sincere and competent, would things have been in these state of affairs we see today in Pakistan?