Indian army fires at AJK premier’s copter near LoC

ISLAMABAD: The Indian army opened fire at the helicopter of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider from a post when he was travelling to a village near the volatile Line of Control (LoC) on Sunday.

The prime minister was travelling with two ministers and his personal staff officer in the helicopter that narrowly escaped the attack near Abbaspur village.

The incident took place in broad daylight when PM Haider was going to visit one of his cabinet members to condole the death of his brother.

Raja Farooq Haider and two ministers escape unhurt

Only a day ago, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while addressing the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York had highlighted the longstanding issue of Kashmir and held India responsible for terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

Talking to Dawn, PM Haider said the incident took place at around 12:10pm.

“I had gone to Forward Kahuta to condole the death of one of my ministers’ brother and meet the residents of the area adjacent to the LoC. While we were passing through Abbaspur, the Indian army suddenly opened fire at my helicopter. Luckily, we remained unhurt and the helicopter was not damaged,” he said.

“We were very close to zero line but we were within our space. Moreover, it was a civilian helicopter so the Indian army should not have opened fire at it,” he said.

Mr Haider said that military helicopters, on both sides, intimated each other before flying according to the standard operating procedure. But as it was a civilian helicopter there was no need to intimate about it, he said. The PM said he frequently travelled in the area but such an incident had never happened.

While replying to a question, the AJK premier said that he would formally take up the matter with the government of Pakistan to pursue the issue and take appropriate action.

AJK President Sardar Masood Khan, according to a statement issued from New York, strongly condemned the unprovoked fire by the Indian occupation forces on the civilian helicopter carrying the prime minister of AJK and members of his cabinet.

Terming it an act of cowardice, the president said such acts by the Indian forces would not intimidate the Kashmiris living under the oppressive Indian rule in their struggle for their right to self-determination.

The AJK president said that the unprovoked fire was a tactic used to raise tensions in the area and delay any prospective talks on Kashmir.

He said this act had not only exposed India’s aggressive posturing and warmongering but also displayed its insecurities. Such manoeuvres by the Indian government and forces were aimed at diverting attention from the real issue of Kashmir and the grave human rights violations taking place in India-held Kashmir, he said.

He asked the Indian government to forgo such gimmicks and threatening tactics, and instead come to the dialogue table for resolving the issue of Kashmir in a peaceful manner as envisioned under the UN Security Council resolutions.

He earlier called PM Haider and inquired about the incident and expressed relief on his safe return.

‘Violation of international law’

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Mian Shahbaz Sharif called the AJK prime minister and inquired about the details of the incident.

Condemning the incident, Mr Sharif said the attack was severe violation of international and bilateral laws. It was also against the diplomatic norms, he added.

“It was an act of cowardice and thank God that Mr Haider was not hurt,” he said.

Reuters adds: Confirming that the AJK prime minister’s helicopter did come under fire, Indian authorities alleged that the Pakistani chopper had violated the Indian air space along the LoC around noon.

“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,” spokesman Lt Col Devender Anand said.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2018

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