India, on our eastern border, has time after time chosen to demonstrate its strategic motives and iniquitous intent towards Pakistan by violating ceasefire on the Working Boundary and the Line of Control. In the last few years, we have seen intelligible evidence of India’s nefarious policy designs against Pakistan. Its immediate aim is to up the ante against Pakistan with continual ceasefire violations along the LOC and deflect the international community’s attention from the grave human rights violations and atrocities being committed in Occupied Kashmir and across LOC in Azad Kashmir. It also aims to engage our Army both on the eastern and western borders so that her ill objectives can be achieved. Not only do these CFVs betray the understanding cemented in 2003 Ceasefire Agreement, but also cause fatalities of innocent civilians living on the Pakistan side of LOC. Kashmiri residents living in the villages and hamlets along the LOC on the Pakistani side are no strangers to shelling and firing from the Indian side. These attacks often do not target the Pakistani troops but are aimed at the innocent civilians as a policy.
Pakistan still has population living in the villages in close vicinity to the LOC while Indian population other than Muslims has been shifted away. In this scenario, the problem for Pakistan increases manifold as the civilians have to be taken care of on both sides. In case of an escalation the civilian population on the other side of the LOC also has to be kept under consideration. Pakistan Army’s rational decision to exercise restraint or to respond to the Indian CFVs is not only a defensive measure but also a consideration for civilian population across the LOC and the Working Boundary. However, India exploits this vulnerability that a Muslim Army would not want to target Muslim and civilian population across the border.
In the 21st century, human rights have emerged at a central position in the global discourse. In this age when human rights are a priority, targeting civilians and particularly targeting women and school children is nothing short of war crimes or crimes against peace and humanity. The proof of these war crimes is the casualties as a result of continued skirmishes that lead to killings of troops and civilians. Additionally, people living in the border areas are also faced with dislocation and displacement besides the death and destruction brought upon them by the incessant Indian firing and shelling, forcing them to leave their homes in forward areas and seek refuge in safe places. Those who are still residing there are living in constant fear of the appalling reality of losing their lives and that of their loved ones.
The international law and norms clearly warn against the targeting of civilians, mentioned specifically in the Geneva and Hague Conventions. This includes civilians and indiscriminate attacks in areas where civilians have a presence. The international humanitarian law identifies and calls for the protection of vulnerable groups that include children and women. But in this case civilians are being indiscriminately and specifically targeted and subjected to terrible atrocities, while ignoring the very basis of the international humanitarian law on the rules of war. Justice has to be served in the case of Pakistani and Kashmiri civilians who suffer fatalities and atrocities resulting from the Indian troops’ blatant disregard for the international law.
A humanist angle should be given to the discourse on the LOC which India is merely considering a stage for its adventures that extends beyond the security rationale. From the moral standpoint, the international community must adopt active measures to put an end to the misery wreaked on the population of Indian Occupied Kashmir, along the LOC, and civilians along the Working Boundary.
It is time that international community and institutions hold India responsible to abide by the obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. In case not adhered to, such acts of violance must be treated as ‘war crimes’ by all relevant world forums.