UMERKOT: Khokhrapar railway station was not always a desolate place it is now. It has seen good days as it was the only link between Sindh and Rajasthan in the pre-partition era.
And bad too since it has witnessed one of the world’s largest migrations in 1947 as a result of the partition of the subcontinent.
The 95-year-old Arbab Soomro recalls that in the wake of the partition, trains from Sindh to India stopped at Khokhrapar and their passengers, mostly Hindus, travelled on foot or hired camels to reach Monabao railway station on the other side of the border.
Same situation was faced by Muslims who came from India when they had to disembark from trains at Monabao.
The legend has it that renowned scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and Hakeem Mohammad Said migrated to Pakistan through this route and stayed at the station for a week.
Khokhrapar railway station, 70km from here, was established around 105 years ago as the first railway station of Sindh on India-Pakistan border.
Arbab Nek Mohammad, a columnist, said that the station also served as a business hub before the partition as it linked the prosperous area of Nara valley with Rajasthan. The valley comprised of today’s Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Tharparkar and Umerkot districts. Rice and other grains were produced in huge quantity in the area.
He said that Rajasthan faced drought after every four years and drought- stricken people came to Nara valley. Some of them stayed there and others returned after buying rice and wheat to feed their families back home.
They travelled to and from Khokhrapar railway station in a train called Raja-ji-Rail (train of Raja), Mr Mohammad said. It was called so because the Raja of Jodhpur and other Rajas of neighbouring princely states helped Indian Railways to lay down a 650-km meter-gauge track from Jodhpur to Hyderabad.
The train service continued even after the partition till 1965’s Pakistan-India war, he said.
He said that a special water train ran between Rajasthan and Hyderabad (Sindh) through Khokhrapar to supply water to the desert of Rajasthan. The train stopped at different stations in the desert area from where people fetched water.Asghar Soomro, a resident of Khokhrapar, lamented that the historical railway station had lost its glory.
In 1985, Mohammad Khan Junejo government planned to open the Khokhrapar border and established an immigration office at the railway station. However, the plan could not materialise because of opposition by Gen Ziaul Haq.
Later, he said Thar Express was launched by Musharraf regime in 2006 to enable people of Pakistan to visit India through Khokhrapar border. The train has a weekly service. However, it does no halt at Khokhrapar railway station as it stops at nearby Zero Point railway station.
He said that on the Indian side a railway station had been established with basic facilities and an immigration office. But only temporary offices existed at the Zero Point railway station of Pakistan which lacked basic facilities, he added.
Recently the Sindh Board of Revenue has submitted a proposal to the provincial government to set up a trade terminal at Khokhrapar to revive trade through Khokhrapar-Monabao border.
However, the proposal has not been approved yet.
Mr Mohammad and Mr Soomro called upon the authorities to allow trade through the Khokhrapar border to boost economy of Sindh. They proposed a Pakistan-India joint gate at the Zero Point on the pattern of Wagah border where flag hoisting ceremony of both the countries was held and civilians were allowed to watch it.