LAHORE  - Amid frequent violations of ceasefire and shelling on civilian areas along international border by Indian paratroopers, Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) on Tuesday lodged strong protest with India’s Border Security Force (BSF) in a high-level flag meeting.

Highly-placed sources revealed that the Interior Ministry had asked the Pakistan Rangers to hold a flag-meeting with Indian BSF as early as possible to ease tension along the working boundary in Sialkot.

A spokesman of Pakistan Rangers said on Tuesday that a DIG-Brigadier level flag meeting began at 11.30 am and continued for more than three hours between Punjab Rangers and Indian BSF in Charwa-Sarabjeet Garh sector at Sialkot working boundary.

“The incidents of unprovoked firing and shelling were discussed besides other routine border issues,” he added.

Punjab Rangers’ Brig Matin Ahmed led the Pakistani side while Indian BSF officials including DIG JC Singla, Virendra Singh, and Dharmendra Pareek participated in the meeting in which the Pakistan Rangers also raised the issue of sniper firing by the BSF men, sources said.

“The Punjab Rangers launched a strong protest with BSF officials regarding recent ceasefire violations including unprovoked firing by BSF troops which caused heavy loss of lives and properties in the bordering towns and villages,” says a Press note released to media by the Pakistan Rangers on Tuesday evening.

According to sources, at the same time the Pakistan Rangers has been directed to strike back with equal measure in case of any unprovoked firing from across the border.

Sources said that the flag meeting was held on the request of top officials of the Indian BSF. Earlier, Pakistan Rangers had attempted thrice to hold flag meeting with the Indian BSF but on all the three occasions the border guarding force of India did not turn up.

Firing from across the border has emerged a matter of serious concern for the Pakistani government and its Armed Forces since steps are being taken to evacuate villagers living close to the border to safe places as the tension continues.

The Rangers has also been conveyed to ensure minimum inconvenience to border population during the skirmishes.

The situation on the border is still tense but is under control along the Line of Control (LoC) and working boundary. Pakistan’s troops are maintaining utmost vigilance along the border with India, an official told The Nation by phone.

Earlier, Pakistan Army said that Indian troops had committed more than 345 ceasefire violations since January.

Political pundits state that while making efforts to normalise relations with India the diplomacy must be developed in a dignified manner.

“Pakistani leadership must not pose themselves as timid and submissive individuals while negotiating peace with hostile neighbours. If India is not ready to cooperate with Pakistani government, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should maintain his Pakistani identity and look noble, rather than giving a nervous and confused impression,” said Muhammad Ayyub, a Lahore-based expert on Indo-Pak relations.

The repeated ceasefire violations by BSF left four persons dead including a Rangers soldier and wounded two dozen civilians since last week. The unprovoked firing and shelling by Indian troops also led to killing of dozens of animals, forcing mass evacuation of local population along the international boundary.

Conducting with dignity should be made the hallmark of Pakistani leadership, rest will follow automatically and the nation would demonstrate its real worth in all fields during all seasons, he added. “Indian Army has recently been rocked by series of corruption and discipline cases of land and other scams involving officers. The repeated ceasefire violations could be outcome of internal disorder in the ranks of Indian military,” insisted a former security official, who remained posted on the international border for several years during his service.

According to Press Trust of Indian (PTI), border guards of India and Pakistan agreed to observe calm along the international border to allow farmers harvest crops in the Zero line on Jammu frontier at a flag meeting. The BSF lodged strong protest against frequent ceasefire violations from across the border, reported Indian media.

“We have lodged a protest with them. Now the farmers can harvest their paddy crops till the border line without any fear as it was decided to observe calm,” PTI quoted DIG (BSF) J.C. Singla as telling after conclusion of the flag meeting. Both the sides would keep monitoring along the international border and “we will ensure that peace prevails along the borderline,”  Singla said.  However, a Pakistani security official denied the reports that both the sides agreed to observe calm along the international border.