–Foreign diplomats sans Indian envoy visit LoC, witness damage caused in local villages by Indian shelling
–ISPR DG says Indian troops have committed 2,608 ceasefire violations in 2019, killing 44 civilians
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan took foreign diplomats posted in the country to the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday to witness firsthand whether the Indian Army had “smashed four terror launchpads” in heavy shelling in the sector two days ago.
According to Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal, the diplomats were taken to the Nauseri, Shahkot and Jura sectors as well as the Nausada village, which suffered severe damage due to the attacks by the Indian troops.
The event was scheduled after India’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bipin Rawat on Sunday claimed that the Indian Army caused “heavy damage to terrorist launch pads near Neelum and Leepa valleys” in cross-border firing along the LoC.
However, the following day – while rebuffing the claim, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor announced to take foreign diplomats and media persons on those given locations to “reveal the facts before the world”.
Pakistan also invited the Indian envoy for the visit, which the latter refused. No official from the Indian High Commission joined the team visiting the LoC, Dr Faisal said.
“The Indian side has not joined us in the visit to the LoC nor have they provided coordinates of the alleged ‘launchpads’,” the FO spokesperson tweeted.
He added that India had also failed to share the coordinates of launchpads which the Indian Army claimed to have destroyed.
The army’s spokesperson also took a jibe at India, saying: “What good [is the] Indian High Commission which can’t stand with its army chief?”
“Indian High Commission staff didn’t have the moral courage to accompany fellow diplomats in Pakistan to LoC,” he tweeted. ”
At the LoC, Gen Ghafoor briefed the diplomats and media persons about the situation in the area. The visitors were also shown remains of the artillery shells that were allegedly fired by the Indian troops from across the LoC.
The DG said that in 2018, there were 3,038 Indian ceasefire violations and 58 civilians were martyred while 319 were injured. In 2019, so far there have been 2,608 ceasefire violations due to which 44 civilians have been martyred and 230 injured, he added.
He said the difference between the Pakistan Army and Indian Army was that the former follows military norms and only targets Indian posts.
The ISPR DG added that the foreign diplomats had visited Jura bazaar and met the local population and shop owners and witnessed firsthand the damage inflicted on the shops and houses that were claimed to be launchpads by India.
On Sunday, at least six people, including a Pakistan Army soldier, lost their lives after Indian troops resorted to “indiscriminate and ruthless” shelling from across the LoC in the latest spate of ceasefire violations.
This is the highest death toll in 2019 in a single day of Indian shelling from across the LoC.
“In response to unprovoked ceasefire violations by India in Jura, Shahkot and Nauseri sectors, nine Indian soldiers were killed while several others were injured and two Indian bunkers were destroyed,” the military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Twitter.
Kashmir has been a disputed territory for the nuclear-armed neighbours since they both gained independence in 1947, and they have fought two of their three wars over the region.
Tensions between the countries have flared and there has been intermittent cross-border firing since 5 August, when Delhi flooded Indian Kashmir with troops to quell unrest after it revoked the region’s special autonomous status.
Islamabad has warned that changing Kashmir’s status would escalate tensions, but India says it is an internal affair and is aimed at faster economic development of the territory.
The shelling marks an escalation from the small-arms fire usually exchanged by the two armies.