SIALKOT/ISLAMABAD: At least 11 civilians were killed and several others wounded on Friday during an exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani border troops along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and Working Boundary in Sialkot’s Charwah, Harpal, Chaprar and Sucheetgarh sectors.
According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) personnel resorted to firing and shelling along the boundary.
Earlier reports suggested seven Pakistanis were killed in firing and shelling by Indian forces, however, the military’s media wing has confirmed the number as eight.
Rangers sources said the attacks along the Sialkot Working Boundary have mostly harmed civilians, adding that livestock belonging to residents of the area has been killed, while houses have been partially damaged.
Meanwhile, Indian officials claimed firing by Pakistani border guards along the boundary in Kashmir left three Indian civilians dead and at least 16 wounded.
Both sides claim that the other side had opened fire first.
Simrandeep Singh, a local administrator on the Indian side, accused the Pakistani guards of unprovoked firing of small arms and mortars across the border in the R S Pura sector on Thursday night.
The Indian border guards returned fire, he said, adding that the injured Indian villagers have been evacuated to nearby hospitals.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his concerns over firing on Working Boundary with India.
He also expressed condolence over loss of eight innocent lives and injuries to 47 others during the firing.
Indian envoy summoned
Indian High Commissioner TCA Raghawan was summoned at Foreign Office and strong protest was lodged with him over the working boundary violations by Indian Border Security Forces near Sialkot which resulted in the killing of civilians.
“Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry received the Indian envoy. He was conveyed Pakistan’s protest and concern over continued LOC/working boundary violations,” Foreign Office said in a statement.
Indian high commissioner was told that India has to honour ceasefire agreement of 2003 between the two countries.
Sartaj Aziz condemns Indian aggression
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz condemned the exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani border troops along the LoC in Kashmir and Working Boundary.
“The government of Pakistan expresses concern at the continued ceasefire violations by India along the LOC and the Working Boundary,” said Aziz.
“We urge the Indian government to stop ceasefire violations along the LOC and the Working Boundary,” added Aziz.
Opposition lawmakers voice concern
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain and opposition leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah condemned the recent round of civilian killings from Indian firing across the working boundary.
Altaf Hussain in a statement said Pakistan should respond to Indian firing befittingly and also urged Pakistan to take up the issue at United Nations, highlighting Indian ceasefire violations.Condemning Indian firing that killed innocent Pakistanis, Imran observed that premier Modi’s government had failed to “move towards peace.”
Khursheed Shah was of the view that India wanted to disrupt peace in the region. He said India seemed to be “underestimating the Pakistani nation’s passion.” He said Pakistan was ready to enter the battlefield with the same spirit the country exhibited in the 1965 war.
Instances of firing across the Indo-Pak border have occurred intermittently over the years.
In the last instance of unprovoked Indian shelling in Sialkot’s Sucheetgarh and Charwah sectors on Aug 18, 60-year-old Mohammad Shareef was killed when he was hit by a mortar shell.
A team of United Nations observers visited the villages hit by Indian shelling and met the family of Shareef at Thathi Khurd village, Sucheetgarh.
The UN team also met other locals affected by Indian shelling and sought details from them about the fresh BSF hostilities, which caused heavy losses of their property and livestock.
The latest incident of firing comes days before India and Pakistan’s border security force chiefs are likely to meet in New Delhi.
The chiefs of the Pakistan Rangers and the Indian Border Security Force were to meet in New Delhi from Sept 9 to 13, a statement issued by the Pakistan Rangers had said.
The agenda for the meeting includes recent firing over the Line of Control, the de facto frontier in the divided Kashmir region, as well as cross-border smuggling, Pakistan Rangers spokesman Waheed Bukhari had said.
The developments come days after the first high-level peace talks in years between the two countries collapsed.
On Saturday, the first high-level peace talks in years between the two country’s national security advisers were cancelled after a dispute over the agenda for those talks.
In December 2013, the two countries had pledged to uphold the 2003 ceasefire accord which had been left in tatters by repeated violations that year. The truce breaches had put the nascent bilateral peace dialogue on hold.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since becoming independent nations in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.
New Delhi has for years accused Pakistan of backing separatist Muslim militants in Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan denies the allegations and blames India for fomenting unrest inside Pakistan.