At least six civilians and a Pakistani soldier were killed as Indian troops resorted to “indiscriminate and ruthless” shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), officials said on Sunday.
Officials said that nine other civilians were injured, adding that this was the highest death toll in 2019 in a single day of Indian shelling from across the dividing line.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) notified through a tweet that one soldier had been martyred in the exchange of fire while two others were injured.
ISPR added that in response to unprovoked ceasefire violations by India in Jura, Shahkot and Nauseri sectors, nine Indian soldiers were killed while several others were injured and two Indian bunkers were destroyed.
A subsequent tweet by the Director General of ISPR said: “Indian Army shall always get befitting response to CFVs. Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along LOC [and] inflict unbearable cost to Indian Army. Indian lies to justify their false claims [and] preparations for a false flag operation will continue to be exposed with truth.”
“Indian Army struggling to pick dead bodies and evacuate injured soldiers. Indian Army raising white flag. This they should think before initiating unprovoked CFVs and respect military norms by avoiding to target innocent civilians,” DG ISPR added.
Earlier, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider said Indian forces in occupied Kashmir had “gone berserk”.
In a post shared on Twitter, he added: “This is the height of savagery. The world must not stay silent over it.”
The worst-hit areas were the Nauseri sector of district Muzaffarabad and its adjoining Jura sector of Neelum Valley.
“The shelling began before midnight and it was the heaviest [so far],” said Muzaffarabad Deputy Commissioner Badar Munir.
“They [Indian troops] used field artillery and mortars and targeted civilian populations,” he said.
Residents who posted videos on social media said the Indians had fired tracer munitions as well.
Tracer ammunition are cannon calibre projectiles that are built with a small pyrotechnic charge in their base. Ignited by the burning powder, the pyrotechnic composition burns very brightly, making the projectile trajectory visible to the naked eye during daylight and very bright during night time firing.
Munir said one of the shells pierced through a house in Nosadda village, leaving two family members dead and as many injured. The deceased were identified as Haji Azam and his son Rafaqat and the injured were Rafaqat’s mother Roshan Jan, 55, and daughter Kainat, 4.
In the same village, Haji Sarfraz, son of Ghulam Rabbani was killed and Nargis, 45, wife of Irshad was injured, the deputy commissioner said.
Elsewhere in Nauseri sector, Liaquat Khan, 35, from Swabi, and Faisal, 30, from Taxila were killed when a shell fell near their tent on a link road, he said. The duo was working as labourers at Panjkot road.
The DC said Shabbir, 38, son of Yaqoob and his mother Begum Jan, 60, were injured in Kanoor village of Nauseri sector.
According to Munir, material losses in the area were still being ascertained.
In Neelum Valley, Jura sector in the lower belt was the worst-hit area, said Akhtar Ayub, a disaster management official based in district headquarters Athmuqam.
“It seemed that they [Indian troops] wanted to destroy everything,” said Raza Awan, a resident of Jura.
Faiz Talab, a police official in Athmuqam, told Dawn that a resident of Loralai, identified as Zafar Khan, 45, was killed in Jura village and a woman and three young girls were injured in Islampura village.
He identified them as Robina Bibi, wife of Abdul Ghafoor, Rashima Bibi, daughter of Abdul Ghafoor, Khizra Bibi, daughter of Abdul Qayyum and Zarqa Manzoor, daughter of Manzoor.
The injured were admitted in a military-run health facility in the area, he said.
He added that 43 shops, 53 houses, six vehicles and three motorcycles had been damaged by Indian shelling.
The Indian provocation comes as tensions remain high between India and Pakistan over the former’s move to revoke occupied Kashmir’s special autonomy on August 5. On October 15, at least three civilians had died and eight others injured in AJK after Indian troops resorted to similar indiscriminate shelling from across the LoC, officials had said.
Indian charge d’ affaires summoned
Indian Charge d’ Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia was summoned to the Foreign Office by Director General (SA & SAARC) Dr Mohammad Faisal, who condemned “the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the LoC in Jura, Shahkot and Nausehri Sectors on October 18 and 20”.
According to a statement released by the Foreign Office, “due to the indiscriminate and unprovoked firing” by Indian troops, which included the use of heavy artillery, five innocent civilians of Village Nausadda and two non-resident civilian labourers were killed while six others sustained serious injuries.
The statement noted that civilian populated areas along the LoC and Working Boundary have been constantly targeted by Indian forces “with artillery fire, heavy calibre mortars, and automatic weapons”.
“This escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from 2017, when the Indian forces committed more than 1,970 ceasefire violations,” said the Foreign Office statement.
“The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws,” it added.
The FO also categorically rejected Indian media reports about “launchpads” which India claims it targets along the LoC.
In this regard, Pakistan has called upon the P5 countries “to ask India to provide information about the alleged launchpads and stated its willingness to arrange a visit of the P5 diplomats to those locations to expose Indian falsehood”.
The FO said the “heinous” targeting of civilians is “a typical attempt by India to divert international attention from the humanitarian nightmare in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir”.
According to the statement, Dr Faisal urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 ceasefire arrangement, investigate these and other incidents of ceasefire violations, instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire in letter and spirit, and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary.
He also stressed that the UNMOGIP must be permitted to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council Resolutions.