Two civilians embraced martyrdom on Saturday while one other was “critically injured” as the Indian Army opened “indiscriminate fire” at a group of shepherds at the Line of Control (LoC), the army’s media relations wing said.

In February 2021, both countries had recommitted themselves to the 2003 ceasefire agreement and agreed to address the “core issues” that could undermine peace and stability.

Today, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement, “Today, at 11:55 hours, Indian Army, in a display of its usual inhumane approach towards innocent Kashmiris, opened indiscriminate fire onto a group of shepherds in Sattwal Sector.

“In sequel to Indian Army unprovoked firing today while adopting an inhumane approach towards innocent Kashmiris at Sattwal Sector, one more civilian has embraced shahadat while one remains critically injured. (Total two martyred and one critically injured),” it said in a subsequent statement.

The ISPR identified the martyred as Obaid Qayyum, 22, and Muhammad Qasim, 55. “Both shaheeds (martyrs) are residents of village Bara Dari Tetrinote, Tehsil Hajira, District Poonch,’ it added.

The statement further said: “Driven by a newfound geo-political patronage, Indian forces have embarked on a plan to take innocent lives to satiate their false narratives and concocted allegations.

“While a strong protest is being launched with the Indian side, Pakistan reserves the right to respond back in manner of its choosing to protect Kashmiri lives in the LoC,” it added.

The ISPR “reminded” the Indian side to respect the basic human rights of Kashmiris, “particularly their inalienable right to their lands”.

The Foreign Office (FO) summoned the Indian charge d’ affairs to register Pakistan’s protest and condemn the incident.

“It was underscored that such senseless acts are in clear violation of the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding, reaffirmed in February 2021. It was further underscored that targeting of civilians is contrary to human dignity and international human rights and humanitarian laws.

“The Indian side was urged to respect the Ceasefire Understanding, investigate the incident, and maintain peace along the Line of Control,” the FO said in a press release.

The ceasefire violation also drew severe condemnation from Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s leadership, including Prime Minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and his predecessor Sardar Tanveer Ilyas.

Haq pointed out that on the one hand, India was committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir and on the other hand, areas along the LoC in AJK were not safe either from its aggression.

He called upon the UN and the international community to take notice of Indian aggression.

Ilyas pointed out that it was not the first time that India had resorted to such a horrendous act in one or the other way.

“There are reported incidents when they shot at and killed the innocent inadvertent crossers from AJK labelling them as infiltrators to sell to the international community New Delhi’s false narrative of cross border terrorism. Pakistan must counter such acts and allied propaganda with full force,” he tweeted.

Last month, Indian troops shot dead a 25-year-old inadvertent crosser from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Earlier on May 15, Parveen Fatima, a 65-year-old wi­­dow from the Pandu sector of AJK’s Jhelum valley dis­trict, was also mercilessly killed by the Indian army after she had strayed across the LoC while picking some medicinal plants.

The development comes days after the United States and India issued a joint statement, calling on Pakistan to crack down on extremists that target New Delhi.

The statement was issued as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Joe Biden on his visit to the US. It called for action against extremist groups based in Pakistan such as the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

It said: “They (Biden and Modi) strongly condemned cross-border terrorism, the use of terrorist proxies and called on Pakistan to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks.”

A day ago, the Foreign Office (FO) had termed the statement “misleading and unwarranted”, saying that the “reference is contrary to diplomatic norms and has political overtones”.

Responding to media queries, FO Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch had said, “India, in addition to being a state-sponsor of terrorism, habitually uses terrorism bogey to deflect attention from its brutal repression of Kashmiri people in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and maltreatment of its minorities.”

She had further asserted that the joint statement failed to address the “key sources of tension and instability in the region and to take cognisance of the grave human rights situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.’

The Line of Control

In February 2021, both countries had recommitted themselves to the 2003 ceasefire arrangement at the Line of Control and agreed to address the “core issues” that could undermine peace and stability.

The surprise announcement had been made in a joint statement by the militaries of the two countries on a “hotline contact” between their director generals military operations (DGMOs).

Hotline contact is one of the oldest military confidence-building measures between Pakistan and India. The hotline contact was originally established in 1971, but its use followed ups and downs in the relations.

Pakistan and India had in November 2003 agreed to cease fire along the LoC and the Working Boundary. The agreement held for a few years, but regular violations have occurred since 2008.

A sharp spike in truce breaches had been witnessed since 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in India. In 2020, the Indian troops committed over 3,000 ceasefire violations in which 28 people were martyred.

In February 2019, both countries came close to a significant confrontation when Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had shot down two Indian planes that had violated Pakistani airspace.

One of the Indian pilots was captured by Pakistan, but was later handed over as a gesture of peace.

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