A night before DDC polls in J&K, Pak troops resort to `intense’ mortar shelling in Poonch

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Jammu, December 12: A night ahead of the VIth phase of District Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani troops on Saturday evening started “intense” mortar shelling along the Line of Control in Poonch district’s Balakote area.

Pointing out that Balakote was one of the 31 District Development Council constituencies going to polls on Sunday morning from 7 am to 2 pm, sources said, adding that nearly a dozen polling stations were located in shelling hit areas.

UT’s State Election Commissioner K K Sharma said “we are monitoring the situation”. “We always make alternate arrangements keeping in view the possibility of such situations, he said that they can shift polling stations to safer places if shelling continued”.

An Army PRO Lt Colonel Devender Anand said that Pakistani troops initiated unprovoked ceasefire violating by firing with small arms and “intense” shelling with mortars in Balakote area at 6 pm. The Indian Army was retaliating befittingly, he added.

Balakote area near Poonch town has always been witness to frequent incidents on unprovoked mortar shelling and small arms fire by Pakistani troops. A village Sarpnch was among six civilians killed in Pakistani mortar shelling there in August 2015.

On Thursday night, five Pakistani soldiers were killed and three injured in retaliatory action by the Indian army along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district. “Pakistan initiated unprovoked firing and shelling targeting civilian facilities in Mankote sector of the LoC in Poonch district earlier during the day.

Since the beginning of this year, Pakistan has with impunity violated the bilateral ceasefire agreement signed by the two countries in 1999. Thirty civilians have been killed and over 100 injured in over 3200 ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the LoC in J&K since January 2020.

Lives of thousands of people living in villages close to the LoC in J&K have been on the edge because of cross LoC shelling.