MUZAFFARABAD: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday termed India’s provocative actions a threat to regional peace and stability, as two more civilians — a woman and a teenage girl — lost their lives and as many were injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in Indian shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC).

During a visit to the forward locations along the restive dividing line that splits the disputed Himalayan re­gion of Kashmir between the nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan, the army chief made it clear that Indian army would always get befitting response to its unprovoked ceasefire violations, according to a statement by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The visit came at a time when ceasefire violations by Indian army across the LoC are taking place very frequently in spite of the fact that the entire world is grappling with Covid-19 pandemic.

The LoC continued to witness an exchange of heavy shelling on Wedn­esday claiming the lives of Zobia, 16, daughter of Lal Deen, and Rashida Bibi, 50, wife of Mohammad Hussain, in Haveli district and leaving two other civilians wounded in Rakh­chikri sector, an official from the area told Dawn. The injured, 11-year-old Faizan and 55-year-old Roshan Bibi, had been hospitalised, he said.

“Blatant atrocities by Indian occupation forces on innocent Kashmiris [in Indian occupied territory of Kash­mir] and unethical targeting of civil population in Azad Jammu and Kash­mir are unacceptable,” said Gen Bajwa, according to the ISPR statement.

“Indian provocations are a threat to regional peace and stability…[but] Indian army shall always get befitting response to ceasefire violations,” the army chief said.

The COAS also reaffirmed the resolve of the Pakistan Army regarding the defence of the country, including AJK. He said: “Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along [the] LoC and defend honour, dignity and territorial integrity of motherland at all costs.”

Meanwhile, a senior Indian diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office in Islamabad to convey Pakistan’s protest over the ceasefire violations in Rakhchikri sector. The violations were denounced as “senseless acts”.

The FO said: “These egregious violations of international law reflect consistent Indian attempts to escalate the situation along the LoC and are a threat to regional peace and security. By raising tensions along the LoC and the WB, India cannot divert attention from the grave human rights situation in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2020