MUZAFFARABAD: Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged intermittent fire in some areas across the restive Line of Control (LoC) overnight, but its intensity was low, civil and military officials said on Sunday.
Recently, the heavily militarised LoC had been volcanic after Indian jets intruded into Pakistani airspace in the small hours of Tuesday and jettisoned their payload on a hillock near Balakot.
The same evening, Indian troops resorted to ruthless shelling across the LoC, killing four civilians and injuring around a dozen others in Kotli district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Tensions at the dividing line escalated after Pakistan shot down two Indian jets in Samahni sector of Bhimber district on Wednesday, and Indian troops took revenge on the defenceless civilian population along the LoC.
People have been advised to observe precautionary measures; schools closed for another three days
Two Pakistani soldiers and one civilian embraced martyrdom and scores of other civilians were injured between Wednesday and Saturday due to India’s ruthless shelling.
However, since Saturday night the LoC has been by and large calm, according to officials and residents.
“On the whole, the ceasefire line (LoC) was calm last night but you never know when it will become hot and active again,” said Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, AJK’s senior minister, on Sunday.
“However, tension still prevails because our enemy (India) appears to be in no mood to de-escalate obviously for her domestic political consumptions,” he said.
He advised people living along the LoC to ensure adherence to precautionary measures advised by the government in the interest of their safety and security.
Residents along the LoC said there had been an exchange of fire but civilians were not hit.
“There was intermittent firing last night but it stopped at about 4am in the morning,” said Abdul Majeed, a resident of Samahni sector where Indian jets were shot down by Pakistan Air Force.
Abdul Qayyum Tahir, a resident of Nakyal sector, told Dawn there was “post to post” fire between Pakistani and Indian troops in his area, but it was not anything unusual for the locals.
“The civilian population did not come under attack (in Nakyal) over the past 24 hours,” he said.
However, the apparent calm notwithstanding the AJK government has ordered all state-run and private educational institutions in the vulnerable areas along LoC to remain closed for another three days at least.
The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media affairs wing of Pakistan Army, also said the LoC was relatively calm, except for sporadic fire in three sectors of Haveli, Kotli and Bhimber districts.
“After heavy exchange of fire on Friday and Saturday, there is relative calm along LoC with intermittent fire during last night in Nezapir, Jandrot and Baghsar sectors,” it said in a statement.
The ISPR said Pakistani troops had effectively responded to Indian fire by targeting Indian posts.
“No casualties [had occurred] on Pakistan side during the last 24 hours,” it said, adding that the armed forces of Pakistan were in a constant state of alert and vigilance.
Funeral of martyred soldiers
Funeral prayers of Havaldar Abdur Rab Shaheed and Naik Khurram Shaheed were offered in Dera Ghazi Khan, following which they were buried with full military honour for their supreme sacrifice for defending the motherland at Nakyal sector.
Meanwhile, AJK President Sardar Masood Khan reviewed the measures taken by governmental and non-governmental organisations to provide relief to the affected people.
At a briefing by Secretary of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) Syed Shahid Mohyuddin and Chairman of the AJK Red Crescent Society (RCS) Dar Sardar Mahmood Ahmed, the president was told the teams of RCS volunteers with first aid items and relief goods had been sent to the affected areas.
Besides, the volunteers were also making arrangements for donation/provision of blood to the persons injured by the ceasefire violations by Indian army, they said.
The AJK RCS chairman said his organisation was in constant contact with the district administrations concerned and relief items and dry ration were being provided to 500 affected families in Muzaffarabad and Kotli by Pakistan RCS headquarters.
The SDMA secretary said his organisation was providing food and accommodation facilities to the affected people in Muzaffarabad, Haveli, Kotli, Poonch and Bhimber districts.
The health department was extending emergency health services to the victims, he said.
Mr Qadri said control rooms had been established at the state capital and the district headquarters to gather and disseminate information.
In addition, he said, a plan had been chalked out to provide rapid relief through effective coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), armed forces, AJK home department, line agencies and other organisations.
He said the Rescue 1122 services had been put on high alert on the directives of the NDMA.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2019