April 2016 News

Pak Breaks 6 Months Truce; Opens Heavy Shelling On Villages Along LoC

10 April 2016
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Barely four days after Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit announced suspension of peace process with India, Pakistan army last night resumed heavy 82mm mortar shelling and firing with automatic weapons targeting civilian population in Shahpur sector along the Line of Control (LoC), about 25 kilometers from Poonch town. Six houses of the civilians living in the forward areas were extensively damaged as Pakistan army directly fired mortars targeting the villages in Shahpur sector in the border district of Poonch. An Alto car parked in premises of the house of a trader was also damaged. Official sources told the Excelsior that this was for the first time during past six months that Pakistan army has resorted to mortar shelling along the villages in the LoC, which was appropriately, effectively and adequately replied by the Indian side to silence guns from across the LoC. It was September 21 last year that guns had fallen silent along the LoC after Brigade Commanders' level flag meeting between India and Pakistan and since then no shelling and firing had been reported on the civilians in the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. Sources said at 11.45 pm last night, Pakistan army started heavy mortar shelling and firing targeting forward village of Shahpur sector in Poonch district. The people were caught off-guard and in the panic took shelter in the bunkers and other safer places. Six houses of the civilians were damaged as mortar shells of 82 mm exploded close to their houses or inside. Indian troops immediately retaliated the firing effectively giving equal response to the Pakistan army. Exchange of mortar shelling and firing continued till 4.45 am today. Since then, no ceasefire violation was reported from Pakistan side. Six civilians, whose houses were damaged in the shelling, have been identified as Mohammad Akbar, Mohammad Sharif, Jamaal Din, Ghulam Qadir, Mohammad Yusuf and Mohammad Shafiq-ul-Rehman. An Alto car No. 8743 JK12 was also damaged after being hit by the mortar shell and heavy fire arms used by Pakistan army. Sources said the ceasefire violation by Pakistan came hardly four days after Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit gave a statement that peace process between India and Pakistan has been suspended. The civilian population putting up along the LoC in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri was left panicky again after six months lull in the firing during which, they had started working in their fields right up to permitted area of the LoC. In the evening, the people had shifted themselves to their houses and bunkers anticipating fresh spell of firing and shelling from Pakistan. In September, 2015, Pakistan army had violated ceasefire 25 times killing ASI Sohan Singh in Manjakote sector, In August, there was heavy shelling and firing on the LoC and on August 15 when India was celebrating Independence Day, eight civilians were killed and several others injured in single day at Balakote sector along the LoC in Poonch district. Pakistan army had then used 120mm, 82mm and 61mm mortar shells besides rockets and other heavy fire arms on the civil population along the LoC. Two Brigade Commanders level meetings were held between India and Pakistan at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch sector on September 4 and September 21. It was after September 21 meeting between Brigadier HS Sareen of India and Brigadier Osman of Pakistan that both sides had agreed to maintain peace and tranquility all along the LoC in twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch and since then no shelling and firing was reported in any part of the two districts. 'Today's ceasefire violation is the first major such incident of 2016,' sources said. Last year, 16 civilians were killed and 71 others injured in 405 incidents of cross-border firing by Pakistan, they said. While 253 incidents of ceasefire violations took place along the International Border (IB), 152 incidents were reported along the LoC. Around 8,000 people were temporarily affected due to the ceasefire violations and had to be shifted to safer locations. Introducing a fresh chill in ties between the two neighbours, Pakistan had earlier this month said the bilateral peace process stands 'suspended' while indicating that it would not allow Indian investigators looking into the Pathankot air force base attack to travel there. Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Pakistan army accused India of resorting to firing across the LoC in the Neza Pir sector. The Pakistan army said 'heavy unprovoked firing and shelling' started at around 11:40 pm on Saturday and went on until about 4:45 am.