The Pakistan army has installed 82mm and 120mm mortar guns bang in the middle of villages located along the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). In a recently taken aerial photograph exclusively accessed by The Sunday Guardian of one of these villages, these guns are seen surrounded by houses belonging to civilians. This particular village near Kahuta in PoK, is at a distance of around 3 km from the LoC, and faces Poonch on the Indian side of the LoC. The photograph of the site reveals that the mortar guns have been placed in such a manner that if Indian Army retaliates to Pakistani firing coming from these mortar guns, the Kashmiri civilians living in this village will be exposed to Indian shelling, along with the Pakistani army positions. This may also result in severe civilian casualties, thus giving Pakistan the opportunity to publicise these as Indian Army targeting Kashmiris living in PoK. So the Pakistan army is basically using Kashmiris in PoK as human shields. Sources say this is the case in almost all the villages along the LoC in PoK.
A close look at the photograph shows a number of circular structures that are Pakistan army’s 82mm and 120mm mortar guns. The rectangular structures around them are the houses of the Kashmiri population living there.
Speaking about the dirty tricks Pakistan army is resorting to, Commander of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt, who was Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) earlier, said, “Pakistan army is known for using PoK villages situated in the vicinity of LoC to hide their mortar positions and headquarters.”
This was reiterated by Lt Gen (Rtd) V.G. Khandare, former Director-General of Defence Intelligence Agency, who said, “Whenever under pressure from Indian Army on the LoC, Pakistan army employs civilians to act as shields while simultaneously targeting and causing casualties to Indian civilians by putting pressure on the Indian side and preventing us from accurate and effective firing.”
While describing a similar story, the former Indian Army Chief, Gen Bikram Singh termed this unscrupulous practice of employing innocent locals as human shields as a perennial modus operandi of the Pakistan army. He explained how Pakistan army deliberately keeps its mortar and guns positions virtually hugging the villages in PoK. “They have repeatedly exploited and undermined the human rights of the innocent locals and soldiers from PoK. During the Kargil conflict also they had made the Northern Light Infantry soldiers into cannon fodder and disowned them.” As a Colonel, when Gen Singh was commanding a battalion at Tangdhar on the LoC in the early 1990s, the Pakistan army, which knew about the movement timings of the UN vehicles on the Nausheri-Jura road in the PoK, “would open fire on our posts a couple of minutes before their arrival to provoke retaliation from us. Our retaliatory fire would then be projected to the UN personnel as unprovoked and even as a blatant disregard for their safety.” By the time the UN teams would reach the spot, they would see only the Indians firing and not the Pakistanis. This would create an impression in the UN officials’ minds that the Indian Army was targeting civilians in PoK.
In the last few months, in different international forums, Pakistan has been accusing India of human rights violations in Kashmir, when the truth, as this photograph reveals, it is for the Pakistani army that Kashmiri lives come cheap in their ploy to defame India.