Pakistan-administered Kashmir officials Thursday said the driver of a school van was killed in firing by Indian troops.
The Pakistan Army’s media wing released pictures of the bullet-riddled van and condemned India’s “unethical and unprofessional approach across the Line of Control (LoC).”
The van was bringing back at least four students from Mandhol to their homes in the Dharamsal area, where it was targeted by Indian troops at about 1:30pm, Assistant Commissioner of Hajira Sikandar Hayat was quoted as saying by Pakistan’s Dawn daily.
“Indian troops aimed at the vehicle with burst fire … and as a result, the driver lost his life on the spot,” Hayat said. He identified the victim as Mohammad Sarfraz.
“The students sitting in the vehicle, however, miraculously escaped unhurt,” Hayat said.
Mandhol is located on the right bank of River Poonch, while Dharamsal lies on the left bank. An Indian army post is just a stone’s throw away from this highly vulnerable village, according to Dawn.
These villages are part of the Battal sector in Hajira tehsil of Poonch district.
According to locals, though maximum families had lately moved out of Dharamsal due to unrelenting Indian shelling, some still lived there at the peril of their lives.
Condemning the incident, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that India’s “unethical and unprofessional approach across the Line of Control (LoC) continues to terrorise civilians.”
“[Indian troops] targeted van carrying schoolchildren in Battal sector, in violation of Geneva Convention and the ceasefire understanding. Van driver embraced shahadat,” he tweeted.
The heavily militarised dividing line is witnessing constant cross-border shelling in a serious breach of a truce agreement signed in November 2003 by the two armies.
It’s not the first time Indian troops have targeted a civilian vehicle in PaK, according to Dawn. In November 2016, a passenger bus was hit by Indian troops in the upper belt of Neelum valley, leaving nine persons dead on the spot and another 11 wounded. Of the wounded, three later succumbed to their injuries in different health facilities.
Three weeks after that incident, a school van was targeted in the Nakyal sector of Kotli district, leaving its driver dead and eight young students injured.
(Pictures of the van released by Pakistan Army’s media wing)