Four Sikh family members who went to Nankana Sahib to condemn the death of a parent were among the 21 Pakistani Sikh pilgrims killed in the tragic accident on Friday when a passenger train crashed in a van in the province of Punjab.
Three brothers – Kaka Singh, Papinder Singh, Jai Singh – and Papinder’s wife – as well as other members of the community, mainly from the same neighborhood of Peshawar, were returning home from Nankana Sahib when the accident occurred at a level crossing in Sheikhupura District, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.
One of the brothers, Jai, had been teaching religious music to students of a Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh in the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for 10 years and also offered his services to the Sikh community.
The family’s neighbors, including Jai’s students, burst into tears after learning of the accident.
Ravendar Singh, a resident of Mohalla Jogan Shah, told the daily that the tragedy had shocked them.
He said there were hardly any houses in the neighborhood where the family member was not among the 21 Sikh victims.
“We have lived here together for decades as a family and the entire Sikh community is deeply saddened by the deaths of members of their community,” he said.
Secretary General of the Pakistan Committee Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak, Sardar Amir Singh, said the dead belonged to three or four families.
Peshawar is home to most of the approximately 40,000 Sikhs in Pakistan.
The van was carrying approximately 26 Sikh pilgrims, all from Peshawar, when it struck the Shah Hussain Express bound for Lahore which came from Karachi at the crossroads near Sheikhupura district.
According to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which deals with minority affairs, 22 people, including 21 Sikhs – 11 men, nine women and a child lost their lives in the fatal collision. A Muslim man was also killed in the incident.
The driver of the pickup truck allegedly tried to take a shortcut to avoid the crossing and stuck the vehicle into the express train. The crossing door was closed and the driver apparently tried to take a shortcut instead of waiting for the door to open, police said. Television footage showed the train and the severely mutilated van on the railroad tracks.
Minister of Railways Sheikh Rashid has ordered authorities to take immediate action against those responsible for the accident. Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his sorrow over the accident and announced that the railways’ operational safety SOPs will be reviewed immediately.