Pakistan and India hold symbolic retreat ceremony at Wagah border

The iconic flag-lowering and retreat ceremony at Wagah border resumed partially on Monday with both BSF and Pakistan Rangers holding a symbolic ritual at the Attari-Wagah joint check post

Attari (Punjab): Making a U-turn on its earlier request to the BSF not to hold the full-fledged Retreat ceremony for three days following the Wagah blast, Pakistan Rangers Monday went back on their own word and held a symbolic ceremony for the lowering of national flags at the Attari-Wagah joint check post.

The Pakistan Rangers held the ceremony and even allowed people to watch it.

The Border Security Force (BSF) responded to a late evening communication by Pakistan Rangers to carry out the ceremony after they had yesterday expressed their desire to stop it for three days.

"We were told about 4pm by Pak Rangers that they would want to carry out the evening ceremony ruling out their yesterday's wish to stop the ceremony for three days. As it was late for us to carry out the full-fledged drill our troops conducted a scaled-down procedure without the public," BSF chief D K Pathak said.

BSF Punjab Frontier Inspector General Ashok Kumar said the Rangers called for a flag meeting at the commandant level Monday evening and informed the Border Security Force at the last minute that they would like to carry on with the full ceremony.

Ashok Kumar said the ceremony will be held in the normal way Tuesday onwards.

BSF officials said both sides had agreed, on a request from Pakistan Rangers, that the Retreat ceremony will not be held for three days. However, the Pakistani side disregarded its own request and allowed visitors on their side Monday.

"A brief, truncated version of the ceremony was held today (Monday) evening. No visitors were allowed on the Indian side though a few hundred spectators were strangely present on the Pakistan side," a BSF officer here told IANS.

The visitors on the Pakistan side could be heard shouting pro-Pakistan slogans. On the Indian side, only a few BSF troopers were there to watch the ceremony.

"We are very disappointed to miss the ceremony here. The BSF did not allow people to go near the border gates. We travelled hundreds of kilometres to see this ceremony," said Santosh Kumari, who had come here with her family from Odisha.

Following the blast that left over 60 people dead near Wagah, just 500 metres from the border gates Sunday, the BSF here has been on high alert.

"Our side is completely secure. We are monitoring the situation closely," Ashok Kumar said.

The BSF has increased vigil at the joint check post and also along the barbed wire fenced international border in Punjab, especially in the Amritsar sector.

"There was a big bang followed by a lot of smoke on the Pakistani side. From our watch towers, we could see a lot of movement there with sirens and flashlights. There was panic all around," a BSF trooper along the border gates said.

"Activity on the Pakistan side of the border gates was normal today (Monday) in the daytime. BSF and Pakistan Rangers commandant-level officers also had a meeting," a BSF official said.

Land border trade between both countries did not take place Monday.

"We will review the situation on Nov 6," Commissioner for Customs Sunil Kumar said.

Scores of trucks from both countries transport products for trade every day.

However, the Samjhauta Express peace train between both the countries arrived here from Lahore.

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