Indian forces fire at AJK PM’s helicopter


—Farooq Haider slams India over attack, calls them ‘cowards’

—Denies violating Indian airspace, says he was travelling in civilian copter  

—Former adviser says Indian army was informed about PM Haider’s visit near LoC

ISLAMABAD: In sheer violation of all diplomatic norms and standard operating procedures (SOPs) agreed between Pakistan and India, the Indian army Sunday fired at the official chopper carrying Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan when it inadvertently crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) in the limits of Haveli area of AJK.

Luckily, the prime minister and the helicopter crew remained unhurt in the incident. The helicopter was immediately landed and luckily no humanitarian loss occurred due to the irresponsible action.

Raja Farooq Haider, in reaction to the incident, said that the Indian forces are incompetent and cowards to have fired on a civilian helicopter.

“The Indian forces made the excuse that the helicopter crossed LOC,” he said. “They are lying. They are doing it because they are going for polls in coming days. I was travelling with my ministers.”

PM Haider said that he was not going with gunship helicopters and a civilian helicopter can even go to Zero Line.

“The Indian army fired to show that Pakistan had violated their airspace,” the PM said in a statement, but added that “when the firing took place, we were within our own airspace.”

The AJK prime minister said their helicopter was passing along Pakistani side of the LoC, which usually remained in the range of the firing from the other side of the border. A civilian chopper, he added, could fly along the Zero Line at the LoC.

He further said that both sides inform each other before a gunship helicopter takes a flight. “India is visibly distraught,” he added.

The AJK PM further said that Indian forces occasionally bomb the area where his helicopter was attacked. “We will stand beside our Kashmiri brothers to defend them.”

“We do not want any warmongering in the region,” he added.

Indian army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand, said a Pakistani helicopter violated Indian air space along the line of control in Poonch district in India’s Jammu and Kashmir around noon local time (0630 GMT)

“It could likely to be a civil chopper and was flying very high. The air sentries at forward location had engaged it with small arms,” Anand said.

Earlier, Raja Wasim, press secretary of the AJK prime minister, however, claimed that the chopper carrying the AJK PM did not cross the LoC and rather it had gone near ‘Zero Line’ when the chopper came under Indian firing.

“It was a civilian chopper and did not belong to the military so there was no reason for the Indians to fire at it. Secondly, there is no demarcation on hills in the Haveli sector and anyone can stray across the LoC anytime,” said Wasim.

The official added that under the international norms, any civilian aircraft can be taken to zero line and hence there was unprovoked firing by Indian troops at the PM’s chopper.

Wasim claimed that Indian army personnel targeted Kashmiri civilians and aircraft habitually, and with impunity, as the world powers remain silent at such aggression.

“We have reported the incident to the ministry of foreign affairs and other relevant authorities and we hope it would be taken up with India by the Pakistani government,” the press secretary added.

According to initial information, the AJK PM Raja Farooq Haider’s helicopter was scheduled to fly to Haveli area and would’ve landed at Smahani in Bhimber district where Raja Farooq was to offer condolence to one of his cabinet member, Chaudhry Aziz, for the departed soul of his elder brother.

However, former advisor to AJK PM Murtaza Durrani said that the chopper had twice crossed over into Indian occupied Kashmir inadvertently.

He said that per the SoPs, the Indian army had been informed about the prime minister’s visit but they still resorted to unprovoked firing.

When asked whether the Indian army had warned the pilot before resorting to firing, Durrani said that the Indian army normally uses microphones to warn against LoC violations and the same procedure was adopted in this case.

The pilot of the helicopter might not have been able to listen to such warning due to the loud noise created by the chopper, Durrani said, adding that this might have been the reason that the pilot had no clue of LoC violation because it is almost impossible to hear to a microphone while flying in a helicopter.

He said that the matter needs to be looked into by the United Nations (UN) and other monitoring missions.

Since the boundary [LoC] dividing the two parts of Kashmir is a bit confusing, its violation is considered normal and people often stray over to the other side inadvertently.

Moreover, it is not the first time that a chopper carrying VVIPs had crossed the LoC to the other side.

A VVIP helicopter carrying the then Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz, then AJK president Sardar Anwar Khan and AJK premier Sardar Sikandar Hayat had strayed into the Indian occupied Kashmir in Chakothi sector but returned immediately after the pilot realised his mistake.

Indian army had shown restraint and the chopper was not fired at as the Indian side had been informed about the VVIP movement in advance.

Moreover, AJK Information Minister Mushtaq Minhas confirmed the attack on Prime Minister Farooq’s helicopter and said that he was present in the chopper at the time of attack.

AJK President Sardar Masood Khan strongly condemned unprovoked fire by the Indian occupation forces on the civilian helicopter carrying Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider and his cabinet members near the Line of Control in Haveli district.

Terming it as an act of cowardice, the AJK president, in a statement, said such acts by the Indian forces would not intimidate “our leadership and civilians in their struggle towards ascertaining the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people living under the oppressive Indian rule in the occupied territory.”

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar also strongly condemned the incident and said that India had once again proved its aggression by firing on the civilian helicopter. India had violated international law and it was evident now that India did not want peace in the region, he added.

On the other hand, Kashmir Council EU Chairman Ali Raza Syed condemned Indian military’s attack on a helicopter carrying Raja Farooq Haider and said that Indians continue to violate the ceasefire agreement and commit atrocities in the Indian held Kashmir but they have miserably failed to shake the determination of Kashmiris.

He added that Indian troops usually attack with light and heavy weapons on the civilian population of AJK based in the areas near Line of Control and this time, a civilian helicopter carrying the AJK’s prime minister became a target.

He, however, added that India will never succeed in its evil plans because people of Kashmir will continue their struggle to expose the real face of the Indians.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president and leader of opposition in the National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, condemned the incident extended his support for the Kashmiris who bear these atrocities daily.

Taking to Twitter, he wrote, “Just spoke to Raja Farooq Haider, PM AJK whose helicopter was fired at by Indian forces. India wants to hide its oppression on Kashmiris through such incidents. Pakistan will continue 2 stand by the people of Occupied Kashmir in their just struggle for right to self-determination.”

Kashmiri freedom fighter Yasin Malik’s wife Mishal Malik also said that the AJK premier’s helicopter didnot cross the Line of Control.