After a powerful bomb blast metres from the visitors’ gallery on Pakistan side of the Attari-Wagah joint check post, the Indians side of the border, the post and the retreat ceremony area especially, was secured in a hurry.
The Border Security Force (BSF) kept a close eye on the zero line, barricading some areas and putting troops on the move. The explosion at 6.12pm shocked thousands of tourists on the Indian side who had just started to clear the area after retreat. “The sound rattled the windows and doors on the Indians side of the post,” said a BSF jawan.
Once the BSF troops were on a high alert, various intelligence agencies also moved in. At night, one could see ambulances and official vehicles moving in on the Pakistani side, and Pakistani Rangers advancing to the border gates. Punjab Police also moved in.
“The blast occurred about 100 metres from the Pakistani viewers’ gallery and left a big cloud of smoke over it. Even a car was blown up in the air,” said an Indian jawan. Nearly 10,000 Pakistani spectators had come to the ceremony, since it was Sunday.
After the suicide bombing, most of the lights on both sides were switched off and camera flashlight was barred. Troops patrolled the gates and the adjoining fence. The BSF sources said since there had been a threat to blow up the Indian ceremony area, the suicide bomber might have tried to get as close to the zero line as possible. On occasions in the past, the BSF has referred to this threat.
Planned attack: BSF
The BSF sees the signs of a Fidayeen-style attack and has prepared to guard against it. Fidayeen are suicide bombers in terrorist squads.
“This seems to be a planned attack. Since we were aware of the threat, we were ready to combat it,” said BSF inspector general (Punjab frontier) Ashok Kumar. Since thousands of people come to the border every evening to witness the lowering of the flags, the attack on the Pakistani side means worries for the Indian security agencies.
“We discussed the threatin a closed-door meeting a few days ago but we will tighten security further,” said Kumar.
Sikh pilgrims wait
The Sikh pilgrims who were planning to cross over to Pakistan in a couple of days for celebrating the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at Nankana Sahib will have to wait and watch.
“A lot will depend on whether the Pakistani embassy now gives them the visa,” said Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) spokesperson Daljit Bedi, adding: “We are ready to send the jatha (batch) but Pakistan will have to promise it security. Let’s see tomorrow (on Monday) how they react.”
On the possibility that the Sikh pilgrimage coming up on Monday would be called off, BSF IG Kumar hoped it would not happen. “I don’t see any possibility of cancellation, since this visit is a different matter altogether,” said the IG, adding: “but nothing is definite.”