the death of three Pakistani and an Indian soldier in crossfire at the Line of
Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir, just a day before the auspicious
Eid-ul-Fitr, the eight-year-old ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan
has ended. Now, the cross-border shelling in the Dodnial-Kail sector of the
Neelum Valley has become a routine. Another Pakistani soldier was reportedly
killed when gunshots were exchanged between the two armies on Monday night.
what is more alarming is an activity that has yet not been reported to the
media. The residents of Neelum Valley
are worried about suspicious presence of some outsiders who have been seen in
the surroundings of village Dodnial since last couple of weeks. Dressed in traditional Pakistani dress Shalwar Kameez and
having long beards, majority of these outsiders speak Punjabi. There must be a
reason behind their dubious presence in the area, but, nobody knows exactly
what the nature of their activities.
Even, no one from local population knows
who they are and from where they have come from. It has been observed that they
spend most of their time away from populated area and avoid interaction with
majority of local people avoid talking openly about this suspicious activity, a
few among them express their concerns candidly. The government officials,
deputed in this far flung district of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, pretend
that they do not know anything about such development. Deputy Commissioner
Neelum District Khawaja Abdul Qayyum, when contacted to spoke on this new
development, said that generally tourists come here from different cities of
Pakistan in summer. “This time the tourists have come in more than usual
numbers and there is no extraordinary activity,” he says.
However, locals do not
agree with the explanation of Khawaja Abdul Qayyum. They believe the new faces
in the area could be anybody but a tourist. Shahid Mir (pseudo name), is a
resident in the Neelum Valley. He says that the activists of banned militant
organisations who were active here in past had the same appearance. Nazir
Danish, a local lawyer has alleged that many jihadi organisations used local
youth to advance their agenda in past. “The parents of dozens of youngsters
recruited by militant organisations in past have never been able to see their
loved ones again. They have been told that their sons were martyred in Indian
Occupied Kashmir,” he goes on to comment.
knows how many mothers will sacrifice their sons this time,” says Begum, a
mother of two young boys and wife of a martyr.
loss of human lives in the recent escalation of relations between security forces of India and Pakistan
deployed along the Line of Control ( LoC ) have raised concerns of the people
of both parts of Jammu & Kashmir about the durability of a ceasefire
agreement inked in 2003.
who are apprehensive of the outcome of a heightened militant activity in the
area are also critical of an unusual number of forces in the area. They think
that both the armies should reduce the number of troops to the lowest possible
figure to de-escalate the tense situation. They have also demanded to pro-peace
elements of the two nations to come forward and play their role in normalizing
the situation on LoC.
Athmuqam, the headquarters of the Neelum district, the Friday prayers last week
were followed by a demonstration staged by civil society to condemn the breach
of the ceasefire. The Neelum Valley Peace March was organized by local people
to expel the non-locals from the area who apparently have established their
sanctuaries in the guise of religious and welfare activities. The protestors
demanded the government to take strict action against those elements were
involved in cross-border activities in past.
this month, residents of the area passed a resolution during the Eid
congregation to condemn the incident of firing that took lives of three
soldiers. They expressed explicitly that they would not allow a non-state
element to use the region for cross-border militant activity.
the ceasefire was adopted at the LoC in 2003, some 200 square kilometres area
and about 0.225 million people were directly under the artillery fire and more
than 3,000 casualties was reported during the escalation.
writer is a peace activist and spokesman of Press for Peace, a Muzaffarabad
based human rights organisation. He could be reached at Jalaluddin.firstname.lastname@example.org)