MUZAFFARABAD: A young tractor driver lost his life in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Friday after an Indian soldier shot him from across the restive Line of Control (LoC) in what officials say was an incident of targeted killing.

Mohammad Ali, son of Ghulam Hussain, was ploughing a field in Nali village — just a stone’s throw from the unmarked dividing line in tehsil Barnala — when a single bullet struck him in the neck, said Ansar Mahmood, a police official based in the area.

“The 20 years old fell from the tractor and died on the spot,” he added.

The deceased, an orphan who eked out a living by driving someone’s tractor, was laid to rest in the evening in Bandala village instead of his native Seri village due to its vulnerability to Indian shelling.

According to officials, while doing different chores without any presentiment of danger, people living in the closest proximity of the LoC often end up falling victims to targeted firing by trigger-happy Indian troops.

“It is a brutal act of targeted killing, something for which Indian troops stationed at the LoC had gained notoriety over the years,” said Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, the AJK’s senior minister, who also belongs to Bhimber district.

“He is the latest victim of the cowardly and dreadful Indian practice of purposely targeting unarmed and innocent civilians in AJK with high calibre weapons even when the ceasefire line is apparently calm,” he added.

Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider also took to Twitter to condemn the latest incident of targeted killing along the ceasefire line (LoC).

“...Skirmishes and artillery duels between rival troops are not something uncustomary in a conflict zone but hitting non-combatant civilians in such a fashion is typical of the coward Indian army. Shame on them,” he wrote.

According to Syed Shahid Mohyiddin Qadri, the secretary of the AJK government’s disaster management authority, the LoC was regularly witnessing ceasefire violations by the Indian army, notwithstanding the November 2003 truce, and as a result civilian casualties were also regularly occurring.

In the ongoing year, as many as 56 civilians have lost their lives and another 266 sustained injuries in different parts of AJK due to firing by Indian troops, he said.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2019