By Jaime Leon
Shaheen Top, Pakistan, Feb 5 (efe-epa).- Sounds of gunfire and mortar bursts are a part of the “routine” life of Shabbir Ahmad, a Pakistani living near the de facto border between Pakistan and India in the disputed Kashmir region, an area where dozens of people die each year in attacks between the two countries.
The relationship between the two nuclear powers is one of continuous tension, with regular clashes along the so-called Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two countries in the Himalayan region.
This has made the lives of the people in the area a living hell, with more than 50 civilians dead and hundreds wounded in last year alone.
Ahmad, a 57-year-old farmer, remembers perfectly how on Nov. 21, 2016, around 8 am, a mortars rained from the Indian side of the LoC, killing one of his sisters and leaving his son handicapped.
“It was a big attack, with mortars, rockets and big guns,” Ahmed recalled with apparent calm while interacting with EFE in Shaheen Top in Pakistan administered Kashmir, during a trip organized by the army on Kashmir Solidarity Day.
“It is a routine for us,” said Ahmad, a resident of Paro village in Sabazkot sector, where some 1.7 people Pakistani citizens live near the LoC.
“Many days the attacks start at 8 in the morning and last till 4 in the afternoon,” said the farmer, who also complained about the lack of good roads in the area.
The idyllic Himalayan territory of Kashmir has been at the center of India-Pakistan hostilities since 1947 when the British rulers of the subcontinent divided it into the two new countries.
Since then, the two nuclear-powered neighbors have fought three wars and numerous minor conflicts over Kashmir.
A United Nations-monitored demarcation, which left one-third of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state under Pakistani control and the remaining two-thirds with India, was drawn up as a ceasefire line in 1949 after the first war between the two countries.
In 1972, almost a year after the third India-Pakistan war, the ceasefire line was renamed as the Line of Control to underline its importance.
Despite the declaration of a ceasefire in 2003, minor clashes between the two countries happen regularly, with each party blaming the other of violating it.
However, these counter-accusations do not solve the problems of the people living in the region amid gunfire and hostilities.
Faisal Hussain narrated to EFE that after dark he does not turn on the lights of his house, located in the village of Tana – 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the LoC -, for fear of becoming a target of Indian soldiers.
The 65-year-old worker takes shelter with his family in one of the 400 bunkers built in the area by the Pakistani military to protect them during the clashes, which have become more frequent in the last couple of years.
According to Pakistan’s data, in 2020 India committed 3,182 ceasefire violations in which 28 people died and 257 others were wounded.
India, on its part, has reported 22 dead and 71 wounded in ceasefire violations by Pakistan last year.
Military official Mohamed Kashif claimed that India resorts to ceasefire violations to divert attention from its internal problems, especially the tense situation in its part of Kashmir since August 2019, when New Delhi revoked the semi-autonomous status of the region.
The Pakistani army accuses India of attacking civilians, while claiming to refrain from doing the same and as they only act in a “professional” manner.