MIRPUR/RAWALPINDI - Only a day after Pakistan released Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman as a gesture of peace and kindness, the troops of neighbouring country resorted to firing at Pakistan’s military positions and civilian population along the LOC on Saturday.

Two Pakistan Army soldiers embraced martyrdom braving enemy fire, which also targeted at least two civilian populations in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) – claiming lives of two civilians and inflicting injuries to four others.

Havaldar Abdur Rub and Naik Khurram were martyred at Nakiyal sector while returning fire at the Indian posts engaged in aggression, according to the ISPR.

It marked the first fatalities for Pakistani troops since Wednesday, when tensions dramatically escalated between the nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir.

Both the martyred soldiers hailed from DG Khan district of Punjab. Havaldar Abdur Rab, 31, is survived by his wife and two daughters. Naik Khurram was also married and father of a daughter.

The army mouthpiece said India targeted civilians in Hotspring, Tatta Pani and Jandrot Sectors along the Line of Control (LOC) in Azad, Jammu and Kashmir.

The two civilians who embraced shahadat included a woman. The injured were evacuated to a hospital in Kotli, according to the ISPR.

AP reported government official Umar Azam as saying that Indian troops with heavy weapons “indiscriminately targeted border villagers” along the Line of Control, killing a boy and wounding three other people. He said several homes were destroyed by Indian shelling. Following a lull of a few hours, shelling and firing of small arms resumed Saturday.

Pakistani troops effectively retaliated to the Indian fire and inflicted causalities on the enemy, said the press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

However, there was no confirmation of causalities from Indian sources, primarily because the heavily militarized border areas of Occupied Kashmir are off-limits to the media.

The Indian army said Pakistani troops attacked Indian posts at several places along the militarised line.

Associated Press reported Indian police saying on Saturday that two paramilitary soldiers and two counterinsurgency police officials were killed in a gunbattle with the freedom fighters in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir, while troops fatally shot a civilian during anti-India protests.





Tensions have been running high between Pakistan and Indian since Feb 14 Pulwama bombing in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

India this week resorted to violating Pakistani airspace to carryout so-called pre-emptive air strikes which were responded by Pakistan the next (Wednesday) when PAF also shot down an Indian fighter jet and detained its pilot, who was returned to India on Friday in a peace gesture.

India however continues to tow the warpath. ISPR said yesterday that Pakistan Army troops remain highly vigilant and were giving a befitting response to the Indian aggression by targeting Indian posts that were being used to target Pakistan’s civilians. It said the Pakistan Air Force and naval forces also remain on high alert to deal with any eventuality.



Sufferings of civilians across LOC

Officials from both countries blamed each other for “unprovoked” violations of the 2003 ceasefire accord at several sectors along the Kashmir frontier, targeting army posts as well as villages.

On both sides of the de facto border, thousands of people have fled to government-run temporary shelters or relatives’ homes in safer areas to escape deadly and relentless shelling along the frontier.

Many of these villages dot the rugged and mountainous frontier, which is marked by razor wire, watch towers and bunkers amid tangled bushes, forests and fields of rice and corn.

“These battles are fought on our bodies, in our homes and fields, and we still don’t have anything in our hands. We are at the mercy of these soldiers,” said Mohammed Akram, a resident in the Mendhar area in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Sakina, a young woman who fled to a shelter with her two children, said the frequent shelling had made them “homeless in our own land.”

In Pakistani-administered Kashmir, many displaced families urged the international community to help resolve the issue of Kashmir so that they can live peacefully.

“Whenever India fires mortars, it’s we who suffer,” said Mohammad Latif, a laborer who took refuge at a government building that was vacated for sheltering displaced families.

“I don’t care whether the Indian pilot is gone or not, I don’t care who released him and why, but I want to know whether peace will return to us after his return to India,” said Mohammad Sadiq, a shopkeeper who also was among the displaced.

He said the latest tensions between Pakistan and India rose so suddenly that some people sold their sheep, cows and buffaloes at throwaway prices in his native Chikothi town.

“We did not know whether we will get any shelter and how could we take our animals” with us, he said.

People living along the Line of Control keep bunkers near their homes, but residents say they cannot spend day and night in them.

Indian police said two siblings and their mother were killed in Indian-held Kashmir in Friday night’s skirmishes. The three died after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in the Poonch region near the LOC. The children’s father was critically wounded.