In the first deadly incident since a truce was agreed a month ago, Indians captured and killed a Pakistani soldier who 'inadvertently' crossed the border Thursday night, violating the understanding on release of such stranded soldiers.
Another Pak Army soldier, Havildar Mohyuddion, was martyred as a result of unprovoked Indian firing at a Pakistani post named 'Kundi' in Hotspring sector of Batttal at 1440 hours on Friday, military sources said.
About the stranded soldier the military sources said that Sepoy Muhammad Ikhlaq of the 29th Baloch Regiment was on patrol duty and moving towards a Pakistani military picket when he mistakenly crossed LoC at around 9pm Thursday night in Khoi Ratta Sector.
An ISPR spokesman said that soldier Sepoy Ikhlaq had lost his way between two border posts and a few civilians at the scene saw the soldier being questioned by the Indians. The Indians confirmed capture of the soldier and initially assured his return after questioning, as per the norm, but later they said they had killed the man.
“Pakistan strongly condemns the killing of a Pakistani soldier by the Indians,” Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on Friday. It said the killing of the stranded soldier “goes against the understanding reached between Pakistan and India on speedy return of inadvertent line crossers and has the potential to further vitiate the atmosphere”.
Islamabad called upon New Delhi to carry out a thorough investigation into this unfortunate incident and to ensure that such incidents do not recur. Pakistan Army also condemned the “inhuman and brutal killing” of one of its soldiers.
“We condemn such an inhuman and brutal act of killing of our soldier after he had identified himself and explained his position,” the spokesman of the military's public relations wing ISPR said. “This is not the first such event. We in the past have returned Indian soldiers who had similarly strayed across the border,” he said.
In October last year, an Indian soldier namely Havaldar Vishnu Das had crossed LoC and was detained by Pakistan's military authorities in the same Khoi Ratta sector where the recent incident has taken place, sources said. After preliminary interrogation, the soldier was returned to the Indian authorities.
A senior intelligence official told The Nation that soldiers crossing the LoC and detained by the respective sides are interrogated to ascertain if they had links with any intelligence agencies. “Often, reports are sought from the local villagers at LoC to confirm identity of soldiers because civilians know their military men. In case of Sepoy Ikhlaq, the locals had confirmed his identity to the Indians but they did not let him go.”
The 22-year old Muhammad Ikhlaq was a resident of Kallar Saydan and he had four years of military service to his credit, according to the army statement. The spokesman said the Indians had agreed to return the soldier's body which would be buried in his native town with full military honour.
Military officials said that contacts with the Indian authorities were made immediately after the sepoy went missing. The Indians initially told the Pakistani officials that Ikhlaq would be returned after interrogation. But when he was not returned despite the passage of several hours, contacts were made at the commanders’ level.
Since late Thursday night, the officials said, Pakistan's Director General Military Operations (DG MO) Major General Ishfaq Nadeem spoke to his Indian counterpart Lt-Gen Vinod Bhatia thrice on the hotline. During the first contact, it was assured that Ikhlaq would be handed over soon and the same assurance was repeated on the contact on Friday morning. It was only when Gen Ashfaq contacted Gen Vinod again in the evening did it transpire that the soldier had been killed.
In apparent violation of the LoC ceasefire that was in place at the LoC, the Indian bunker construction at the forward posts of the LoC in November last year had prompted deadly skirmishes that culminated to intense hostility by the start of this year. Following contacts between the DG MOs from the two sides, the last few weeks had remained calm before this episode of the fresh killing re-triggered hostility.