KARACHI -- Enhanced security measures by Pakistan Railways Police and the army have made train travel safer, passengers and officials told Pakistan Forward.
Between 2011 and 2014, Pakistan Railways faced 93 terrorist attacks on trains, tracks and stations, resulting in the deaths of 62 people, mostly passengers, and injuring dozens of others, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.
The intensity of attacks declined sharply in 2015 and 2016 because of on-going security operations against militants and enhanced security measures taken by Pakistan Railways Police, officials said.
As a result, only 12 incidents of terrorism took place on the Pakistan Railways network between January 2015 and September 2016. During that period, terrorist attacks took five lives -- three in 2015 and two in 2016.
This decline shows a substantial improvement in the security of railways, officials say.
Enhanced security measures
"We have stepped up the security of railway stations, trains and tracks and strengthened our police force," Deputy Inspector General of Pakistan Railways Police Sharaq Jamal told Pakistan Forward from Lahore.
"We are treating major stations like closed buildings and allowing passengers to enter into railway stations [only] through walk-through security gates, while [army] commandos have been deployed at stations and in trains to maintain security and thwart any attempt of terrorism," he said.
Pakistan Railways Police also carry out random checks on trains and in stations with the aim to protecting the thousands of passengers who travel by trains throughout the country, he said.
"We have inducted more than 650 police officers in the past year to further tighten security and strengthen our force," Jamal said.
The placement of security cameras and deployment of police officers to record and guard Pakistan Railways infrastructure have helped reduce terrorist attacks, he said.
Railways Police also use sniffer dogs and bomb detectors to check passengers' baggage at stations and in trains.
Jamal thanked rail passengers for co-operating with Pakistan Railways Police and supporting enhanced security measures.
"Railways Police will continue to build up its strength and take further necessary security measures to provide passengers a safe journey," he said.
Renewed interest in train travel
Before the launch of targeted security operations against militants, Pakistan Railways faced several spates of terrorist attacks, mostly in Balochistan and Sindh provinces, said Karachi-based security analyst Col. (ret.) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt.
"Targeted operations by security forces in Karachi and Balochistan have improved the security of trains and Pakistan Railways infrastructure," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Security forces must continue targeted and intelligence-based operations in Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces to further reduce militancy and attacks on the railway system," he said.
"The Pakistani government and security forces must be appreciated for making Pakistan Railways safer," said Muttahir Ahmed Khan, a freelance writer and educator from Karachi.
"I often travel by train from Karachi to Lahore, and I have found the journey to be safer and more comfortable in the past couple of years because of enhanced security and better travelling facilities," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Pakistan Railways has been witnessing an unprecedented rush of passengers for more than a year, mainly because of the improvement in security of trains," he said.