India’s unprovoked and indiscriminate firing from across the Line of Control (LoC) left two young children dead and three wounded in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, civil and military officials said.
“Indian troops resorted to intense unprovoked firing in different sectors along the LoC [in Kotli and Poonch districts] targeting civilian populations,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a brief handout.
The firing left a six-year old girl, Aiqa Ramzan, wounded in Balakot village of Nakyal sector before noon, Assistant Commissioner Waleed Anwar said.
Late in the afternoon, Indian troops resumed shelling in Nakyal.
At about 3:25, an Indian post fired a volley on Khara Dheri village, and a bullet hit a nine-year-old boy identified as Saad Chaudhry in the head, leaving him dead on the spot.
At about 3:45pm, a mortar shell landed on the house of Kabir Hussain in Dharoti village, injuring his three children, Quratul Ain, 14, Moeen Islam aka Hamayun, 12, and Sami ur Rehman, 10.
The victims were rushed to the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital, Kotli for treatment, but Hamayun did not survive, medical superintendent Dr Tariq Mehmood confirmed.
On Friday, 45-year-old man Sikandar Hayat had been injured in Lanjot village of Nakyal sector.
He too is being treated at DHQ Hospital Kotli, Mehmood added.
Haji Azad, a local journalist, said Indian troops were intermittently firing mortar shells to scare local population.
“They [the Indians] resort to shelling unexpectedly. Their aim is to disturb normal life in areas along the dividing line,” he said.
The ISPR said that the Indian Army also targeted the Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing point, hitting its visitors’ stand.
A picture released by ISPR showed the windowpane at the Tetrinote Terminal smashed after being hit by splinters from a shell.
Cross-LoC travel and trade through the Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing point has been suspended since July 7 due to heavy cross-border shelling in the area.
The ISPR said that Pakistan army “aggressively and effectively responded to hostile fire [by the Indian troops], silenced their guns and caused considerable damage to the posts carrying out fire.”
“Targeting civilians will not deter Kashmiri people from their just struggle against Indian oppression,” the ISPR said.
Separately, Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said on Saturday that the deliberate targeting of civilian population was a highly condemnable act, in contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
“Such belligerent acts by India pose a grave threat to regional peace and security,” he tweeted.
The heavily militarised LoC that splits the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir has been witnessing cross border shelling for quite some time, in sheer disregard of a November 2003 truce agreement. The ceasefire violations mostly culminate in civilian casualties.
On Thursday, the Heads of Missions of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council in Islamabad (China, France, Russian Federation, UK and USA) were briefed by the Foreign Secretary and the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by Indian troops along the LoC and Working Boundary, particularly in the past two months.
According to a Foreign Office handout, the foreign secretary had expressed grave concern over the increased frequency and duration of indiscriminate firing/shelling from the Indian side, deliberately targeting villages and civilian populated areas, resulting in the killing of 45 civilians and injuries to 155 in the ongoing year, in complete disregard of the 2003 ceasefire understanding and of international law.
“Pakistan has displayed exemplary restraint but has been compelled to respond. Indian actions are a serious threat for the maintenance of regional peace and tranquility and may lead to a strategic miscalculation,” she had said.
While emphasising the important role of the United Nations Military Observers Group the foreign secretary had noted that Pakistan was fully cooperating and providing unfettered access to the UN military observers; unlike India, which was non-cooperative and restricted their access.