Rangers team off to India

March 27, 2008

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LAHORE, March 26: A Pakistan Rangers delegation, which was led by its Punjab Director-General (Maj-Gen) Muhammad Haroon Aslam, left for India via Wagah Border on Wednesday morning to attend the biannual meeting with the Indian Border Security Force.

Pakistan Rangers Sindh Director-General (Maj-Gen) Liaquat Ali, commandants, staff officers and representatives of the Anti-Narcotics Force and the Survey of Pakistan were part of the delegation. The delegates were received by BSF DIG Aquil Muhammad at the Zero Line, who presented bouquets to the Pakistani officials.

The delegation is scheduled to have meetings with a team of the BSF, which is to be led by its Additional Director-General G.S. Gill at Chandigarh till March 29. The biannual meeting is a part of the ongoing peace process between the two countries aimed at coordinating measures being taken by the two border guarding forces for effective management duties.

Pakistani side's agenda included unprovoked firing by the BSF troops, trans-border smuggling and illegal border crossing from India to Pakistan, simultaneous coordinated patrolling on the international border, drug trafficking, repatriation of inadvertent border crosses as well as Pakistani prisoners detained in Indian jails.

Talking to reporters at the Zero Line, Maj-Gen Haroon Aslam said both sides would discuss border guarding matters. The issue of exchange of prisoners between the two countries was not the basic item on the agenda, but it would be discussed among other issues.

He said the meeting would review implementation of the agreements reached between the two sides during the last meeting.

When asked as to why India was not returning Pakistanis who inadvertently crossed border within the stipulated time of 24 hours, he said this issue would be discussed during the meeting.

BSF DIG Aquil Muhammad said all important issues would be discussed between the two sides, adding "we will try to resolve all of them."

“During my posting in the BSF we have tried to repatriate all such persons inadvertently crossing the border within 24 hours. We have sent back nearly 90 per cent of them within this timeframe," he said when he was put the same question.

He, however, parried a question that what kind of goodwill gesture it was to send the body of a Pakistani prisoner in response to the release of an Indian spy by Pakistan. “It is not suitable time to discuss such issues,” he said.

"Pakistan also sends us a body after three days," he said while referring to an Indian fisherman who has reportedly died of illness in a Karachi jail.

When his attention was drawn towards the impression that the BSF was sending spies to Pakistan, he said both the countries had covered a lot of ground with regard to their peace efforts and the issue of spying was now a foregone story. "We and you know everything. It’s better not to talk on the issue," he said.

APP adds from New Dehli: The Pakistan delegation reached India to attend biannual meeting between the border forces of the two countries being held in Chandigarh. At Attari, Maj-Gen Haroon Aslam told newsmen: “We are here to discuss the professional matters in the most professional manner, but we will not hurl any vague allegations against each other.” He termed “mere allegations” reports about smuggling of narcotics from Afghanistan to India through Pakistan.