Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Wednesday condemned a recent ceasefire violation by Indian troops which resulted in the deaths of three civilians in different villages in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), saying that the increased frequency of attacks from across the Line of Control (LoC) "indicates their [the Indian government's] frustration due to failure in IOJ&K [Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir]".
In a tweet posted on ISPR's official Twitter account, director general of the army's media wing Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said ceasefire violations by the Indian forces "are being and shall always be effectively responded".
"Pak Army shall take all measures to protect innocent civilians along LoC from Indian firing deliberately targeting them," he said.
His statement came after a four-year old boy was killed and eleven others, including his mother, siblings, cousins and neighbours, were injured in Neelum Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in a fresh ceasefire violation by Indian troops on Wednesday.
Akhtar Ayub, a disaster management officer in district headquarters Athmuqam, told Dawn by telephone that the incident occurred in Katha Chogali village of Chilyana at about 8:30am, while some villagers had gathered at the residence of Muhammad Siddique to inquire about his health.
Siddique was injured in Tuesday’s Indian shelling.
“While the victims were sitting in the courtyard of Siddique’s house, a single mortar shell fired by Indian troops from across the Line of Control exploded close to them, leaving his youngest son dead on the spot and the rest injured,” he said, identifying the deceased as four-year-old Ayan Ali.
The injured were Siddique’s wife Ruqayya Bibi, 38; his daughter Sadaf Siddique, 18; son Furqan Siddique, 16; his nephews Khurrum, 10, and Fakhar, 8; nieces Rimsha, 7, and Iram, 5; and neighbours Gulab Jan, 80, wife of Barkatullah; Rashida Bibi, 22, wife of Mumtaz; Shahnaz Bibi, 35, wife of Suleman Shah; and Ehsan, 7, son of Safeer Hussain, he said, adding, they had been shifted to a military run health facility in Jura village.
On Tuesday, two persons were killed and eight were injured in Neelum valley alone, while elsewhere 8 persons were injured in Nauseri sector of Muzaffarabad district and 10 in Leepa valley of district Hattian Bala. However, many casualties in Leepa could not reported on Tuesday due to poor telecommunications network.
Located some 40 kilometres northeast of Muzaffarabad, Nauseri is the gateway to Neelum valley as well as the site of the composite dam of 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP), along the main Neelum Valley Road.
It was after many years that Nauseri sector was also indiscriminately shelled by Indian troops on Tuesday.
During the shelling, at least one mortar shell had also landed at the mouth of the dam and one several yards ahead of the spillways while five had struck a landslide across the dam, causing no damage to any structure, according to Badar Munir, deputy commissioner of Muzaffarabad.
An AJK police constable who was guarding Nauseri Bridge near the dam site was critically injured after being hit by shrapnel from a shell in the abdomen.
It was in the wake of that shelling that the authorities had evacuated more than 50 Chinese nationals, working at the composite dam site, to Muzaffarabad on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, sporadic small arms fire between Pakistani and Indian military posts was reported from parts of Neelum valley.
Ayub told that though the traffic was plying normally in Neelum valley on Wednesday, the administration had asked people, through loudspeaker announcements from all mosques, to avoid unnecessary movement and gatherings.
“We have also repeatedly urged that no one should touch or pick any device, such as dud shells and bomblets, or gadgets like a pen, watch or mobile phones if found lying anywhere to sidestep any danger,” he said.
According to military sources, dud shells are the ammunition that fail to fire or explode and bomblets are the parts of a medium artillery shell that spread in the targeted area after the shell explodes in the air and usually remain activated for 24 to 48 hours.
However, in some cases, the deactivation takes quite a long time. The size of the oval shaped bomblets varies from 4 to 5 inches and because of their shape villagers refer to them as “toy bombs.”
Previously, a number of casualties were reported from areas along the LoC when residents, mostly young children, had tried to play or tamper with dud shells or bomblets out of ignorance.
Ayub said the administration had also provided necessary household items to residents of those four houses which were completely gutted in Tejiyan village on Tuesday due to indiscriminate Indian shelling.
Meanwhile, according to a late night report, Abdul Latif Malick, a 12-year-old boy, who was injured in Dudhnial village of Neelum Valley in Tuesday's Indian shelling, succumbed to his wounds in a hospital in Muzaffarabad after 10pm on Wednesday, raising the death toll in two days to 4.
According to official sources, the overall civilian death toll in 2019 in the wake of latest casualties has swelled to 26 while the number of injured persons is above 150.
In Islamabad, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia and condemned the "unprovoked" ceasefire violations, a press statement released on Wednesday said.
The spokesperson urged the Indian side to respect the ceasefire agreement and termed the targeting of the civilian population as "deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws".
"The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws. The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation," the press release read.
The Indian government must respect the 2003 ceasefire arrangement, investigate these and other incidents of ceasefire violations; instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary, the statement further said.