Pakistan train bus crash
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. At least 20 Sikh pilgrims were killed on July 3 when a train smashed into a van in the east of Pakistan, officials said. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: At least 20 people, mostly members of the Pakistani Sikh community, died on Friday afternoon in a deadly crash between a passenger bus and train near Sheikhupura in Punjab province, officials said.

Another eight have been injured in the accident and have been shifted to District Headquarters Hospital, Sheikhupura, according to Rescue 1122 officials. The bodies of the deceased have also been shifted to the hospital.

The accident occurred around 1.30pm local time at a railway crossing near Sheikhupura when the Shah Hussain Express train rammed into the bus carrying nearly 25 passengers, most of them Sikh pilgrims. District police officer Mohammad Ghazi Salahuddin confirmed the accident and toll to the media.

The victims belonged to three or four families, according to Secretary-General Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee Sardar Amir Singh.

The passengers in the bus were members of Pakistan’s minority Sikh community, returning from Nankana Sahib in Punjab to their hometown in Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Other members of the group in two other vehicles are safely on their way.

Initial reports suggested that the driver attempted a shortcut which resulted in the crash. But the cause of the accident will only be shared after the investigation, officials said.

PM, President expressed grief, order inquiry

Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed sympathies and condolences and directed authorities to provide the best medical treatment to the injured. President Dr Arif Alvi also conveyed his deep sorrow over the loss of lives in the train accident.

Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid has directed immediate action against those responsible for the accident.

Pakistan has a history of fatal and frequent railway accidents. Reports say that Pakistan has witnessed 384 train accidents since 2014.

Sikhs have several shrines of their religious leaders in Pakistan. One, of Sikh founder Guru Nanak, is located in Pakistan’s Kartarpur bordering India in Punjab. It was built after he died in the 16th century.

Many Sikh holy sites became part of Pakistan after the British partitioned the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 after two centuries of colonial rule.