India fires cluster munitions on areas along LoC

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RAWALPINDI: (Left) This handout photo shows one of the cluster bombs on Saturday after Indian army targeted innocent citizens in Neelum Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on July 30-31 night and (right) some children, who were injured in the attack, being taken to hospital.—INP
RAWALPINDI: (Left) This handout photo shows one of the cluster bombs on Saturday after Indian army targeted innocent citizens in Neelum Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on July 30-31 night and (right) some children, who were injured in the attack, being taken to hospital.—INP

ISLAMABAD/MUZAFFARABAD: Outraged over the firing of cluster munitions on civilian populated areas of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan on Saturday called for world attention to the disregard of the widely accepted international ban on the weapons by India and massive human rights abuses being committed by Indian forces inside occupied Kashmir.

In a major escalation in the ceasefire violations, India has begun using cluster munitions on civilian population living close to the Line of Control (LoC). The use of cluster bombs on the Neelum Valley over the past few days has caused multiple fatalities and injuries to several others, including minor children.

Over the past few years, besides a spike in terms of intensity of ceasefire breaches, India has also resorted to calibre escalation and air space violations along LoC. The use of cluster bomb is therefore a step further towards escalation in the situation along LoC.

World urged to take notice of New Delhi’s disregard for widely accepted international ban on such weapons

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed that on the night of July 30 and 31, Indian army targeted civilian population in the Neelum Valley through artillery using cluster ammunition, which led to martyrdom of two civilians, including a four-year old boy, and injuries to 11 others. The ISPR, the media wing of the army, also released pictures of scattered munitions as well as those of the victims.

Meanwhile, a late-night tweet by the ISPR chief rejected Indian allegations of intrusion. “Indian allegations of cross LOC action by Pakistan and possession of bodies are mere propaganda. Such blatant lies/staged dramas are Indian disinformation manoeuvre to divert world attention from increased atrocities by Indian Occupation Forces inside IOJ&K,” he said.

According to Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), the number of casualties has increased to four as another civilian fell victim to the shelling, whereas one of those wounded on Tuesday succumbed to injuries at a hospital. The SDMA has put the number of wounded in shelling incidents at 40.

Use of cluster munitions has been banned by 102 countries, most of which are signatories to the Convention on Cluster Ammunition, because of concerns that the weapon causes disproportionate civilian casualties. Some of the unexploded bomblets released from a cluster bomb may remain unexploded and may kill or maim civilians even afterwards.

The size of bomblets varies from four to five inches and because of their shape — resembling a soft drink can or an orange — villagers refer to them as “toy bombs.”

Military sources say though cluster bombs are designed as anti-personnel and anti-armour weapons, innocent civilians are mostly their primary victims and of them 40 per cent are children who are drawn to the small, toy-like metal objects.

Cluster bombs are believed to be deadlier than landmines, which is why the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions — adopted in May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, and signed in December 2008 in Oslo, Norway — prohibits their use, production, stockpiling and transfer and requires states to ensure that they claim no further victims.

“India in its war frenzy is not only sabotaging regional peace but also committing gross human rights violations along the LOC. I urge the nations of the world to take strict notice of the ongoing situation in IOK and LOC,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted.

“Strongly condemn the blatant use of cluster ammunition by Indian Security Forces targeting innocent civilians along the Line Of Control. This is clear violation of the Geneva Convention & International Laws,” he further said.

The ISPR, meanwhile, said: “This blatant Indian aggression against all international norms exposes true character of Indian Army and their moral standing.”

ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor reminded India that no weapon could suppress the determination of Kashmiris to attain their right to self-determination.

“Kashmir runs in blood of every Pakistani. Indigenous freedom struggle of Kashmiris shall succeed, IA,” he tweeted.

In Muzaffarabad, AJK President Sardar Masood Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider vehemently condemned India’s use of cluster munitions on unarmed, innocent civilian population along LoC.

“In addition to its scorched earth policy inside the occupied territory, India has unleashed a mini war all along the LoC, using prohibited munitions,” President Khan said, in a reference to pellet guns and cluster bombs.

Prime Minister Haider noted that tensions at the LoC were aimed at diverting attention from the nefarious plans the fanatic BJP government had conceived for the occupied territory in the wake of its utter failure in curbing the popular public sentiment.

“Wilful use of cluster bombs by Indian troops reflects the devilish designs of their government and warrants immediate international intervention,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a related move, the AJK government on Saturday notified exemption from the payment of licence issuance or renewal fee of non-prohibited weapons for the members of the village defence committees, established within the five kilometres radius of LoC.

The notification stated that the deputy commissioners concerned would notify the names of the members on yearly basis, while the assistant commissioners and station house officers concerned would recommend and certify exemption of fee.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2019