Though we do not know what his full name is (the media is divided between Abhijeet Singh and Amarjeet Singh), what we know for certain is that he is the first Sikh Pakistani Ranger and the first to participate in the Beating Retreat ceremony at Wagah Border.
The news about A.J. Singh broke Friday evening when he was spotted doing the ceremonial march and salute during the ceremony at Wagah border post. Though there was nothing new about the ceremony itself, what was interesting to note was that it was for the for the first time in history that a ‘Sikh’ Ranger from the Pakistan side was lowering the flag. Since 1959, the lowering of the flags or the Beating Retreat ceremony is a daily military practice that has been followed at the Wagah border.
In the last 56 years the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and their Pakistani counterpart, the Rangers, have jointly followed this tradition but a Sikh Pakistani Ranger has never been part of it.
According to media reports, he enrolled in 2009 and completed training last year following which he was deployed at the Wagah border.
Both Pakistani and Indian audiences gave a thunderous round of applause when Singh shook hands with an Indian BSF trooper.
But A.J. Singh is not the first Sikh Pakistani soldier. That credit goes to Hercharan Singh, who is now a Captain in the Pakistani Army.
Both Hercharan and A.J. Singh are residents of Nankana Sahib, where most of Pakistan’s Sikh population lives. The Pakistani Army also has a few Parsis, Christians and Hindus in their ranks.
Ashok Kumar was a Pakistani Hindu soldier who died during operations in Waziristan. On March 23, 2015 the Govt of Pakistan honoured him with the military decoration of Tamgha-i-Shujaat, though they do not mention him as “Saheed” due to his religious identity.