Four members of a Sikh family, who had gone to Nankana Sahib to condole the death of a relative, were among 21 Pakistani Sikh pilgrims killed in Friday’s tragic accident when a passenger train crashed into a van in Punjab province.
Three brothers – Kaka Singh, Papinder Singh, Jai Singh – and wife of Papinder — along with other community members, mostly from same the neighbourhood in Peshawar, were returning to their home from Nankana Sahib when the accident took place at a railway crossing in Sheikhupura district, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.
One of the brothers, Jai, had been teaching religious music to the students at a Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s capital for the last 10 years and also volunteered his services for the Sikh community.
The neighbours of the family, including students of Jai, broke into tears after they learned about the accident.
Ravendar Singh, a resident of Mohalla Jogan Shah, told the daily that the tragedy has shocked them.
He said there is hardly any house in the neighbourhood whose family member is not among the 21 Sikh victims.
“We have been living here together for decades like one family and the entire Sikh community is deeply saddened over the death of their community members,” he said.
Secretary-General Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee Sardar Amir Singh said the those who died belong to three or four families.
Peshawar is home to most of Pakistan’s nearly 40,000 Sikhs.
The van was carrying around 26 Sikh pilgrims, all from Peshawar, when it hit the Lahore-bound Shah Hussain Express which was coming from Karachi at the crossing near Sheikhupura district.
According to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which looks after minority affairs, 22 people, including 21 Sikhs — 11 men, nine women and a child lost their lives in the fatal collision. A Muslim man has also been killed in the incident.
The driver of the van reportedly tried to take a shortcut to avoid the railway crossing and rammed the vehicle into the express train. The gate at the crossing was closed and the driver apparently tried to take a shortcut instead of waiting for the gate to open, police said. TV footage showed the train and the badly mangled van on the railway tracks.
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid has ordered authorities to take immediate action against those responsible for the accident. Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed grief over the accident and announced that the Railways” “operational safety SOPs will be reviewed immediately.