The civil and military leadership, during a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting called on Sunday, reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to respond to any “misadventure or aggression” by Indian forces, a press release by the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The meeting was summoned by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the wake of the Indian army’s use of cluster ammunition to target the civilian population in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) across the Line of Control (LoC) in violation of the Geneva Convention and international law.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other top civil and military leaders attended the meeting.
The participants condemned Indian army’s “destabilising efforts” in AJK and occupied Kashmir at a time when “Pakistan and the international community were focused on resolving the Afghan conflict”. They also noted that aggression by the Indian forces will “increase the level of violence and turn [the region] into a flash point and a destabilising factor”.
“The more India is exposed internally and internationally in its machinations, the more there are chances that it may resort to desperate and risky options including false flag operations,” the statement read.
In a major escalation in the ceasefire violations, India has begun using cluster munitions on civilian population living close to the 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.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the political leadership of Pakistan needs to be on the same page and expose the “state terrorism by India in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK)” and the situation at the LoC.
She said that this was not the time for politics, rather, it was the time to stand up for the nation’s welfare and for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, adding that the country’s leadership should send a message of unity and solidarity.
Meanwhile, the Kashmir Media Service today reported that Indian army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kali, based in Srinagar, claimed that seven more individuals had been killed in IoK’s Kupwara district.
In a statement shared by the PML-N on Twitter on Sunday, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif condemned the deaths of the Kashmiris.
He called on United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to take immediate notice of the situation and to play his role in stopping the “murder of innocent civilians in Kashmir”. Additionally, he called on the UN Security Council and the rest of the world to take notice of Indian brutality in occupied Kashmir.
According to Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), the number of casualties increased to four on Saturday 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.
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.
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. ISPR, the media wing of the army, also released pictures of scattered munitions as well as those of the victims.
“This is [a] violation of Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law,” the military’s media wing said, adding that the use of cluster ammunition is prohibited under the Convention on Cluster Ammunition because of its severe impact on non-combatants.
The NSC meeting came in the backdrop of Indian accusations of a cross-LoC incursion and resultant casualties. The Indian army had claimed it had “successfully foiled” a ‘border action team’ (BAT) operation by the Pakistan Army in the Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir — a claim rejected by both ISPR and the Foreign Office (FO).
“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 the occupied Kashmir,” said ISPR.
Ban on cluster ammunition
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 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in a press statement released today, expressed deep concern over the “deteriorating situation in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, including reports of deployment of additional paramilitary forces and use of banned cluster munition by the Indian forces to target civilians”.
The OIC called upon the international community to “rise up to its responsibility for the peaceful resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute”.
The size of cluster munitions 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 mostly end up being their primary victims, 40 per cent of whom 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.
Increased Indian deployment in occupied Kashmir
India has deployed at least 10,000 troops in IoK in recent days, with media reports of a further 25,000 ordered to the region. There are some 500,000 Indian security forces already based in the region.
The government has also introduced other security measures — including a call to stock up food and fuel — over terror threat claims.
Tourists and students have been scrambling to leave IoK since the Jammu and Kashmir state government said they should leave “immediately” amid new intelligence about “terror threats” to a major Hindu pilgrimage in the region.
Britain and Germany have also issued warnings against travel to the region.
But while the Indian military and the state government have highlighted the security risk, Kashmiri and opposition politicians in New Delhi have raised concerns that the extra troops were being deployed for other reasons.
They include fears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government could carry out a threat to scrap Kashmir’s special status under the Indian constitution.
Political leaders in the territory have warned that cancelling constitutionally guaranteed rights — which mean only state domiciles can buy land in the region — could spark unrest in the Muslim-majority state.
On Saturday, the FO had expressed “serious concern over the progressively deteriorating situation” in IoK.
“There is a deepening anxiety and fear among the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir because of reports of deployment of additional 38,000 Indian paramilitary forces in recent weeks,” read the statement.
Tensions ran high between India and Pakistan in the wake of a suicide attack on an Indian military convoy in Pulwama district of Indian-occupied Kashmir on February 14, which killed more than 40 paramilitary troops.
In what was the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what New Delhi said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.
Pakistan downed an Indian plane for violating its airspace and captured its pilot after he ejected in AJK.
The tensions de-escalated after Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to release the Indian pilot as a peace gesture, and following concerted diplomatic efforts by countries including the United States, China and the UAE.
Nevertheless, ceasefire violations along the de-facto border have been occurring regularly.