ISLAMABAD - Pakistanis along with Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC marked India’s Independence Day as ‘black day’ yesterday amid soaring tensions sparked by New Delhi’s unilaterally ‘merging’ Occupied Kashmir into its union.

The escalation was highlighted by martyrdom of three Pak Army soldiers in the firing by Indian forces from across the Line of Control (LoC). Five Indian soldiers were also killed and several others injured in the counter-attack, according to Pakistan military spokesperson.

In a tweet from his official account, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) directorate Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that bunkers of Indian troops were also damaged in the retaliation. “Intermittent exchange of fire continues,” he wrote.

The Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives were named Naik Tanveer, Lance Naik Taimoor and Sepoy Ramzan.

The DG ISPR said that Indian army had increased firing along the LoC as part of the “efforts to divert attention from [the] precarious situation in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir”.

Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the unprovoked firing by the Indians. In a statement, he prayed for the eternal peace of the martyred soldiers.

INDIAN ENVOY SUMMONED

Pakistan later summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian forces along the LoC.

“The Indian occupation forces along the LoC and Working boundary have continuously been violating the 2003 ceasefire arrangement, which needs to be respected,” said Director General South Asia Dr Mohammed Faisal, who summoned the India envoy to lodge the protest.

“The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation,” he said.

The Foreign Office official urged the Indian side to instruct its forces to respect the ceasefire in letter and spirit. He said India should permit the UN observers to play their mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

Black Day

The people in Pakistan as well as in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian-occupied Kashmir yesterday observed a ‘black day’ to mark India’s Independence Day.

Black flags were hoisted on rooftops and vehicles to symbolize rejection of India’s illegal decision of scrapping autonomous status of held Kashmir.

Protest rallies were held across the country and seminars were held to highlight the plight of the Kashmiris and condemn Indian atrocities in IOK.

Newspaper issues carried black borders and flags on government buildings flew at half-mast.

The display pictures (DPs) of social media accounts of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, several other politicians and government officials as well as a large number of ordinary citizens were turned ‘black’ as a gesture of protest.

In a statement, the Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said: “We stand with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters.”

DG ISPR, who also blackened the DPs of his social media accounts, tweeted: “Pakistan observers 15 Aug 2019 as #BlackDay to awaken world conscience about India’s atrocities” which it has been carrying out in Kashmir since 1947.

“On 5 August 2019, India disregarding legal & moral ethics has turned IOJ&K into a jail. Humanity and peace abused,” he wrote.

The ruling PTI staged a massive protest in front of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. Addressing the participants, PTI Secretary General Aamir Mehmood Kiani said the observance of black day was aimed at expressing indignation on Indian aggression against the innocent people.

He said the occupation forces have been committing the worst kind of atrocities on Kashmiris as part of state policy which tantamount to state terrorism.

He said the IoK people were facing shortage of food and medicines while braving the intermittent curfew and crackdowns. The civil society and citizens of Pakistan strongly condemn the Indian acts of brutality and express their full solidarity with the innocent Kashmiris, he added.

Aamir said the Indian forces had made the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir hostage and wanted to erase their identity. However, they would fail to get success in their nefarious designs, he added.

He said since Kashmir was Pakistan’s jugular vein so Islamabad would not show any indolence on this issue, and will take every possible step to help the Kashmiris get their right to self-determination.

PTI leader Asad Umar said the Kashmir was a disputed territory and matters pertaining to it could only be resolved under the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

He said the violence, curfew, ferocity, brutality and detention could never stop the freedom movements. Guns could not dampen the morale and the freedom struggle of Kashmiris, he added.

He said Pakistanis and Kashmiris were connected with mutual bonds of love and affection. The Kashmiris would succeed in getting their basic right of self-determination as the Indian ferocity and brutality could not deter them.

A PTI delegation also presented a memorandum to the representatives of United Nations mission and Indian High Commission to convey the feelings and concerns of the people of Pakistan about the atrocities being committed by the Indian occupation forces.

In AJK capital Muzaffarabad, more than 1,000 people marched on the city roads holding black flags and shouting anti-India slogans. A significant number of supporters of the Hizbul Mujahideen also participated in the rally.

“As long as India continues its occupation of Kashmir, we will keep fighting against it in the occupied territory with full force,” Hizbul Mujahideen’s deputy commander Saifullah Khalid told the crowd. “Until the eviction of the last Indian soldier, our armed struggle will go on.”