March 2017 News

Trade Centre, Villages Hit By Pak Shelling; Cross-LoC Bus Suspended

13 March 2017
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Cross-LoC bus between Poonch and Rawlakote in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) was today suspended, the educational institutions were closed and examinations suspended as Pakistan army resorted to very heavy mortar shelling and firing using 120mm and 82mm shells along the Line of Control (LoC), just about four kilometers from Poonch town causing extensive damage to Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Chakan-Da-Bagh. Pakistan army was reported to have suffered five to six casualties in heavy retaliatory shelling and firing by the Indian troops during the day today, which was necessitated to silence the Pakistani guns. Heavy shelling by Pakistan has also created doubts over cross-LoC trade on Poonch-Rawlakote route tomorrow as entire road stretch from Chakan-Da-Bagh was coming under heavy shelling and firing from across the LoC. Official sources told the Excelsior that Pakistan army started heavy mortar shelling and firing with automatic and semi automatic weapons in Khari, Karmara, Gulpur, Digwar, Digwar Nadiala, Bigial Dar, Maalti and Dalaan forward areas, about four kilometers from Poonch town targeting civilian areas and forward Indian Army posts at about 12 noon yesterday on the occasion of Holi festival. Troops from this side retaliated effectively giving matching response to Pakistan army. While shelling and firing stopped after sometime, it resumed from Pakistan side late last night and continued almost throughout the day today confining civilian population to their houses. Pakistan army used heavy mortar shells like 120mm and 82mm and automatic weapons in targeting civilian population and forward Army posts on the occasion of Holi celebrations. Indian side was replying the shelling and firing very effectively, sources said. Several mortar shells hit the TFC Building at Chakan-Da-Bagh from where cross-LoC trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is conducted four days a week from Tuesday to Friday, causing it extensive damage. 'Fortunately, there was no staff in the TFC building when the mortar shells fell there at 6.30 am today. Otherwise, there could have been casualties as mortar shells hit the TFC building and exploded with deafening sound. Some of the shells fell close to the building,' sources said, adding that the TFC building is located about two kilometers inside the LoC on Poonch-Rawlakote route. As there was no-let up in Pakistan shelling and firing along Poonch-Rawlakote route and surrounding areas, authorities ordered suspension of cross-LoC bus between Poonch and Rawlakote, which ferries passengers to and fro the two parts of the divided States. The bus plies between Poonch and Rawlakote every Monday. This is after the long time that cross-LoC bus on Poonch-Rawlakote route had to be suspended due to Pakistan shelling and firing. Generally, Pakistan didn't target Poonch-Rawlakote route during shelling and firing as cross-LoC bus moves on this route every Monday followed by weekly trade for next four days from Tuesday to Friday. Twelve persons were scheduled to travel on the cross-LoC bus from Poonch to Rawlakote today. One of them was first time visitor from Poonch to PoK while 11 others were PoK natives, who had to return to their homes after completing their stay on this side. Eleven PoK residents were stranded on this side due to suspension of the cross-LoC bus service, sources said, adding their stay on this side will be extended by few days. 'Normally, the cross-LoC bus plies only on Monday. However, if both sides agree, a special bus can be allowed on any days for shifting the stranded passengers but this would happen only if the shelling and firing stopped,' sources pointed out. They said the cross-LoC trade between the two sides could also be suspended tomorrow in view of Pakistan's shelling and firing but a final decision on it will be taken only tomorrow morning. In view of firing, authorities today also ordered closure of educational institutions in the areas falling along LoC and cancellation of 6th and 7th Class examinations. The schools closed included Government High School Digwar, Government Middle School Digwar, Government High School Digwar-T, Government High School Karmara and private schools falling in these areas. The Class 6th and 7th examination in these schools have also been postponed. Authorities have also advised the students of these classes living in the villages hit by shelling and firing not to venture out for examinations in other areas and assured them that they will be given another chance to appear in the exams. Sources said there were no casualties of any Army personnel or civilians in heavy Pakistan shelling on the Indian side. However, there were reports that Pakistan army has suffered five to six casualties in retaliatory firing by the Indian side. Pakistani ambulances could be seen shifting injured Pakistan army men from forward posts to the hospitals. There was panic among the civilians on the Indian side as well as mortar shells fell in the populated villages like Digwar and Khari. The people had narrow escape in the shelling, sources said. Sound of mortar shelling could be heard in Poonch town as the villages shelled by Pakistan army were hardly four kilometers from the town, they added. On March 9, Army jawan Deepak Jagannath Ghadge was killed in Pakistan firing in Poonch sector. No reasons could be ascertained immediately behind totally unprovoked shelling and firing from Pakistan side but, sources said, there was pressure on Pakistan army to push militants into the Indian territory from LoC but in view of strict surveillance maintained by the troops, the militants have been finding it very hard to infiltrate.