Pause in Pakistan-India fighting gives villagers relief

By Ihsan Qadir  |  Nov. 22, 2013 at 11:47 AM
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Nov. 25, SIALKOT, Pakistan (UPI Next) --

 A lull in fighting between India and Pakistan along the countries’ common border in the disputed region of Kashmir has given villagers a moment of relief from renewed tensions between the feuding neighbors.

"We thank God that the shelling and firing have stopped," Naziran Bibi of Joyan village, about a half mile from the Pakistani border along Indian Kashmir, who was injured Oct. 17 by Indian Border Security Force firing, told UPI Next.

"I am getting treatment at home peacefully.”

The two countries have fought three conventional wars and several skirmishes over Kashmir. They signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003, but recently each accused the other side of committing the worst violations since then.

According to the Rangers, Pakistan's border force, India has violated the agreement 75 times since January, and gunfire and shelling by its Border Security Force have killed two people and wounded 18. India accuses Pakistan of similar violations, including opening fire on its posts and civilians. In recent months, tension was at its highest ever.

On Oct. 29, Punjab Rangers and the Indian BSF held a flag meeting -- displaying their flags at the border line -- to defuse tension. Since then there has been no exchange of fire.

Rehmat Bibi, 65, who lives in a single-story, mud-and-brick house riddled by Indian shelling, is mourning her only son, Sajid Mehmood, 39, killed in an Indian attack before the lull.

"I was shell-shocked the moment I saw my son in a pool of blood," she said.

"He was bleeding profusely, and he slowly said, ‘Mother, bring water,' but he met His Almighty Allah.

"Mortar shells were bursting in the courtyard of my house, and I was not able to bring water to my son.”

Rehmat Bibi, who lives in Joyan, said there was panic everywhere and bullets were hitting her house hard. She said she could not believe she survived.

"I am living dead after the death of my beloved son," she said. "I have no love for life now."

Amna Ali, 16, described an attack on her home in Joyan.

She said she was hit in the shoulder while asleep.

"I started crying with pain, and my whole dress filled with blood. No one came to my rescue," because everyone was panicking, she said.

"Animals were terrified, and a cow fell near me," she said.

Ali Ahmad of the same village told UPI Next the whole village was "rattled by heavy shelling and firing from India."

"We had to flee to safer places empty-handed. We left everything at home," he said.

Rangers spokesman Muhammad Asif said the Pakistani border force had lodged a strong protest with Indian BSF officials against what it sees as unprovoked attacks. The United Nations has called on both nuclear-armed nations to honor the cease-fire, and Asif said the BSF agreed to honor the agreement after growing international pressure.

Hasan Askari, a security analyst and former visiting professor of Pakistan studies at Columbia University in the United States, ruled out the possibility of all-out war between Pakistan and India.

"Armies on both sides do not want normalization of ties between the two countries," he told UPI Next. "So they have created tension along the Line of Control," he said, referring to the border between parts of Kashmir controlled by India and Pakistan.

In an interview with UPI Next, Rangers Brigadier Mateen Ahmad cited different reasons for the recent attacks by Indian forces.

"Indians are very shrewd," he said. "They always have a purpose for LoC tension -- to spoil the visit of our prime minister to the U.S., elections in India in 2014, a high ratio of suicides among BSF personnel due to the tense working environment, to divert the world community from the Kashmir issue."

"The Indian government and politicians are using BSF to nurture maximum Indian public support," he added.

He accused India of deploying Indian army snipers to target Pakistani posts and civilians. India has made similar statements from time to time accusing Pakistan of violations.

"We are using restraint, but it should not be considered our weakness," Ahmad said.

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