Four civilians and one soldier of the Pakistan Army were martyred on Friday in “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing by Indian troops from across the restive Line of Control (LoC) in several areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the military’s media wing said.
At least 12 civilians and five soldiers also sustained injuries in the ceasefire violations in what appeared to be the biggest escalation in hostilities on the de facto border in months.
India also suffered “substantial losses” in terms of troops and material in Pakistan Army’s “befitting reply” to the firing, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement.
A report by The Hindu newspaper said 10 people, including six civilians, three army soldiers and one Border Security Force (BSF) soldier, were killed and more than 20 others injured in firing by Pakistani troops in four districts of Indian-occupied Kashmir.
The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, Shehryar Khan Afridi, shared a video of the aftermath of the Indian firing. “Indian coward army is targeting civilian population across the LoC! Targeting civilians is a WAR CRIME!!!” he tweeted.
Giving background of the latest flare-up, the ISPR said on the night of November 7-8, the Indian army reportedly had an ‘encounter’ with a few freedom fighters in Kupwara district, “well within” occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s territory, opposite Neelum Valley in AJK. During the clash, Indian troops suffered some casualties including four soldiers.
“To ward off the humiliation faced by Indian Army in front of domestic audience, instead of finding the reasons from within and addressing the same, on November 13, 2020, Indian Army opted for resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate fire of all calibres, including artillery and heavy mortars, along [the] LoC in various sectors of AJK,” the statement added.
The areas targeted by Indian troops included Neelum Valley (Nekrun, Kel, Sharda, Dudhnial, Shahkot, Jura, Nauseri sectors), Leepa Valley (Danna, Mandal and Kayani sectors), Jhelum Valley (Chham and Pandu sectors), and Bagh Valley (Pirkanthi, Sankh, Haji Pir, Bedori and Kailer sectors).
Besides engaging with Pakistan Army posts and positions, Indian troops also targeted the civilian population along the LoC “in utter disregard to all international obligations and human rights”, leaving four people dead and 12 others injured.
“In response to this provocative act, Pakistan Army gave a befitting reply to the Indian Army, and effectively targeted those Indian posts which engaged innocent civilians,” the press release added.
It said “substantial losses, both in terms of men and material, have been incurred on to Indian troops” that have also been accepted by Indian media. India’s confirmed losses are “much more than being acknowledged”, it added.
During the exchange of fire, a Pakistan Army soldier was martyred, while five others were injured.
“Such cowardly acts of targeting innocent civilians reflect sheer lack of morality, utter un-professionalism and total disregard [of] human rights by the Indian Army and are also [a] clear violation of [the] ceasefire understanding of 2003,” the military’s media wing stated.
It reiterated that “Pakistan is a peace-loving country and [the] Pakistan Army pursue the same aspirations.”
“However, we stand committed to defend the motherland and our Kashmiri brethren even at the cost of our blood and lives,” it said, adding that “all such provocative acts shall continue to be responded in the same coin.”
In a tweet, AJK President Masood Khan strongly condemned the civilian casualties caused by the Indian firing. “Targeting unarmed civilian, especially women and children is the height of cruelty and reflects the criminal behaviour of the Indian army,” he wrote.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said while the whole world was trying to combat Covid-19, “India’s PM Modi is disrupting peace of the region and attacking civilian settlements on LoC”.
“We stand with brave Kashmiris and expect the world to take notice of India’s state terrorism in IIOJK and LoC.”
While the whole world is trying to combat COVID-19, India's PM Modi is disrupting peace of the region and attacking civilian settlements on LoC, #NeelumValley.
We stand with Brave Kashmiris and expect the world to take notice of India's state terrorism in IIOJK and LoC.
— Usman Buzdar (@UsmanAKBuzdar) November 13, 2020
On Friday morning, the ISPR had reported that one person was killed and three others sustained injuries in firing by Indian troops along the LoC.
In a tweet, it said Indian army troops targeted the civilian population living in Rakhchikri and Khanjar sectors along the LoC using rockets and mortars.
The ceasefire violation targeting Tari Band and Samahni villages led to the death of one citizen and left three civilians, including two women, injured.
“PakArmy responded effectively, targeting Indian Army posts,” the ISPR said.
Meanwhile, Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwala, who was supposed to visit the LoC on Friday, said he was forced to cancel his visit due to relentless Indian shelling.
In a statement, Mandviwala, who is currently visiting AJK, said he was also scheduled to meet the prime minister and president of AJK but the meeting was postponed due to the firing.
He said Indian troops were carrying out “intense shelling” and had also targeted civilian homes and a mosque.
“This is not even shelling; India is throwing bombs,” he said, adding that the residents of Neelum Valley were becoming victims of “Indian army’s terrorism”.
Regretting the deaths of civilians, he urged the international community to take notice of Indian “aggression” and “state-sponsored terrorism”.
The heavily militarised LoC that splits the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir has been witnessing skirmishes and artillery duels in a serious breach of a truce agreement that the rival armies had signed in November 2003.
Last month, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram had told the United Nations that India’s aggressive policies and military posture posed an “immediate and pervasive threat” to international peace and security.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on disarmament and international security, Akram said Indian forces continued to resort to artillery and small arms fire every day along the LoC, targeting innocent civilians on Pakistan’s side.
“There were over 3,000 ceasefire violations in 2019 and over 2,400 this year so far.
“Such daily military provocations are accompanied by repeated threats of aggression by India’s political and military leaders. Pakistan has acted with restraint to these provocations and threats, but as we demonstrated in February 2019, Pakistan will respond decisively to any Indian aggression with the full force of our capabilities,” the envoy added.