A day after the suicide bomb attack on Pakistani side of the border, Pakistani Rangers went ahead with a high-voltage Beating Retreat ceremony on their side by allowing around 3,000 visitors to witness the event, leaving BSF officials unhappy as the gallery on the India side was empty.The Pakistani Rangers had requested the BSF on Sunday night that they were not in a position to hold the retreat ceremony for three days and the BSF had agreed to it after a formal announcement. Thousands of Indian tourists were stopped three kilometres away from the border due to this reason.
However, the Pakistani Rangers at about 4pm on Monday informed the BSF at the zero line that they wanted to hold the ceremony. BSF agreed to to hold a ‘low profile’ ceremony after which the two sides will lower down their respected flags.
The BSF officials including the top brass were surprised at about 4.50pm when a large number of tourists started pouring in the Pakistani gallery. There were loudspeakers, national flags and slogan-shouting by thousands of tourists on the Pakistani side but the Indians Gallery looked deserted with not even a single person sitting there.
Soon the Rangers and the BSF started the ceremony. Postures remained very aggressive from both the forces, as heavy foot stomping was seen. However the BSF jawans had cut the length of the parade as they never came from a longer distance to approach the gate. It was around 15 minute’s parade that saw lot of response from Pakistani side.
Visibly unhappy over this, BSF IG Punjab Frontier, Ashok Kumar said, “We have not liked whatever has happened. It was Pakistani Rangers who requested us that they were not in a position to hold ceremony last night. But today at 4pm they requested that they want to hold ceremony. So we also held it.”
But nothing was told about the tourists or public. We have not liked it. Definitely we will take up the matter with Pakistan Rangers, IG Stressed.
On a question, the IG said, “We had done our ceremony and lowered the flag with respect. The morale of the BSF troops is very high and we have made adequate arrangements to deal with any situation. We will be holding the full fledged ceremony from Tuesday and tourists will be allowed.”
The Pakistan side defended their decision to hold the ceremony. "We have decided in a meeting this afternoon to allow the general public to come and watch the flag-lowering ceremony," Pakistan's Punjab Rangers spokesman Maj Shahid Abbas said. "Since we have cleared off the blast site after collecting the forensic evidence, there was no point in closing the Parade Avenue for the public," he told PTI. Officials said the changed plan to allow the ceremony had been communicated to the BSF by the Rangers.
Thousands of Indian Tourists disappointed
After the BSF announced that no ceremony will take place for the next three days, many tourists were stopped three kilometres away from the border.
Unhappy, Raaj Patole, who had come with a contingent of 78 people from Maharashtra said, “We are left disappointed. We had come especially to see the border.” The tourists were seen raising slogans of ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ before moving back.
Watch: Pakistan holds beating retreat ceremony
21 people, including a suicide bomber, arrested in Pakistan
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials said at least 21 people, including a suicide bomber, were arrested and explosives and a suicide vest recovered on Monday as the country was on red alert with Muharram processions by Shia Muslims underway.
Ten women, eight children and three security personnel were among those killed in the attack that took place about 500 metres from the border on the Pakistani side at 6.12pm on Sunday after the ceremony was over.
Trade between India and Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah road route, estimated to be worth around Rs. 3,000 crore annually, came to a halt following the attack.
(With inputs from PTI)