MUZAFFARABAD/ISLAMABAD: Three Pakistan Army soldiers and two civilians were martyred and one civilian was wounded in two sectors of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) as Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling from across the restive Line of Control (LoC) on their independence day on Thursday which was observed as a black day in Pakistan as well as both sides of the disputed Himalayan region.

While Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia was summoned to the Foreign Office over the latest ceasefire violations, the prime ministers of Pakistan and AJK condemned the incident.

The military casualties took place in Leepa sector of Jhelum Valley district and the civilian casualties in Battal sector of Poonch district, officials said.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, military’s media affairs wing, said in a statement that Indian troops increased firing along the LoC “in efforts to divert attention from the precarious situation” in occupied Kashmir. “Three Pakistani soldiers embraced shahadat,” the ISPR said without mentioning the area where the casualties had occurred.

However, military sources told Dawn that the casualties took place in Leepa sector, some 100km southeast of the AJK capital.

Indian deputy high commissioner summoned to FO over latest ceasefire violations

The army had responded to Indian firing effectively, the ISPR said, adding that five Indian soldiers were killed and many others injured, in addition to damage to Indian bunkers. It said firing in the sector was continuing intermittently. The martyred soldiers were identified as Lance Naik Taimoor, Naik Tanveer and Sepoy Ramzan.

In Battal sector of Poonch district, Indian troops started the shelling at about 5am, using machineguns and mortars.

Ilyas Ahmed, a police officer deployed in the area, told Dawn that the shelling subsided at about midday but resumed with full intensity at about 2pm.

“It was ruthless... They pounded the entire area with mortar shells,” he said, adding that some of the villagers, who came out of their homes and other places assuming that the shelling would not resume, were caught off guard.

According to the officer, Muneebur Rehman, 45, son of Sain Rasheed, and Mohammad Aziz, 40, son of Chaudhry Kala Khan, lost their lives in Battal and Natar villages, respectively. Qari Mohammad Naqeeb, 60, was injured in Battal village and taken to a hospital.

Mr Ilyas said that 38-year-old Mohammad Sarfraz had embraced martyrdom on Tuesday in Lachyal village of the same sector in small arms fire by Indian troops “without any provocation”.

In a brief statement, Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the unprovoked Indian shelling along the LoC and prayed for eternal peace of the martyred soldiers.

Condemning the martyrdom of three army soldiers in the Indian firing, President Dr Arif Alvi said the brutal India of Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would fail like that of Hitler’s Nazism. “My condolence to families of Lance Naik Taimoor, Naik Tanveer & Sepoy Ramazan, who embraced Shahadat during unprovoked Indian firing across LoC,” he said in a tweet.

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider also condemned the latest ceasefire violations and expressed sorrow over the loss of innocent lives. “They [Indians] have been unleashing terror in the entire occupied territory after locking it down and they are doing the same at the ceasefire line (LoC) by resorting to indiscriminate shelling... This reflects the height of their frustration,” he said.

Mr Haider said the fascist BJP government would have to cut a sorry figure because every Kashmiri had taken upon himself to challenge and overthrow Indian occupation, particularly after its recent nefarious move.

The Indian occupation forces along the LoC and Working Boundary have been violating the 2003 ceasefire arrangement. There has been a sharp increase in the frequency of the violations over the past few years. Lately, Indian troops have resorted to caliber escalation and use of cluster bombs. The Indian Air Force violated airspace over Azad Kashmir during the post-Pulwama standoff.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said: “Director General (SA & Saarc) Dr Mohammad Faisal summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mr Gaurav Ahluwalia today [Thursday] and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control.”

Dr Faisal, during his meeting with Mr Ahluwalia, emphasised that the 2003 ceasefire agreement needed to be respected. “The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation,” he maintained.

He urged the Indian side to instruct its forces to respect the ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and Working Boundary. He further called upon the Indian side to permit UN military observers to play their mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2019