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AJK minister rubbishes India’s spy concerns over 12-year-old border crosser

MUZAFFARABAD: The authorities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday rubbished claims made by Indian officials that a 12-year-old boy from AJK had “intruded” into the Nowshera sector of India-held Kashmir “for the purpose of spying”.

“In a region where inadvertent crossings across the unmarked Line of Control (LoC) are a regular occurrence, the claim by Indian authorities is simply ludicrous,” said Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, the senior minister in the AJK cabinet.

“It’s ironic that Indian authorities are using inadvertent crossings to further vitiate the already tense atmosphere in the region,” he said.

“But what else can you expect from a country that even considers a bird fluttering over from across the border a spy,” added Mr Farooq, referring to claims made by Indian authorities last year that they had caught a “spy pigeon” in Pathankot in the northern state of Punjab.

Indian officials say boy was sent by ‘terrorists to probe a route for infiltration across LoC’

Indian media quoted Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Col Manish Mehta as saying on Saturday that an Indian army patrol along the LoC had apprehended a 12-year-old “intruder” from AJK after he crossed the LoC late on Friday evening in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district.

The boy, Ashfaq Ali Chauhan, was identified as the son of Hussain Malik, a retired soldier of Pakistan Army’s Baloch Regiment, and a resident of Dunger Pel village in Bhimber district. The Nowshera sector faces the Samahni sector of AJK’s southernmost Bhimber district.

“Ashfaq was found moving suspiciously near the LoC and surrendered immediately on being challenged by the Indian Army patrol,” the Indian media quoted Mr Mehta as saying.

Indian officials alleged that the boy was sent by “terrorists in connivance with the Pakistan Army to probe a route for infiltration across the LoC. He had been handed over to police in India-held Kashmir for further investigations.

However, when he was contacted Bhimber police chief Chaudhry Munir Hussain said so far none of the police stations in his jurisdiction had received any report or complaint about the disappearance of a 12-year-old boy.

Senior Minister Farooq, who also hails from Bhimber, said that crossing the de facto border was hardly unusual because residents along the LoC, from children to adults, often strayed across the divide while herding cattle, picking firewood or medicinal plants.

He said the fresh claim was reminiscent of a similar allegation levelled by Indian authorities in the wake of an attack on an Indian army base in Uri in September last year. India had arrested two teenagers from Muzaffarabad and accused them of being the facilitators of the men who attacked the base.

Ultimately, India’s own National Investigation Agency had conceded that the teenagers India had held on suspicion of involvement in the attack had crossed the LoC after an argument with their parents and that the evidence collected did not reveal any linkage between them and the assailants. The two boys were eventually freed in March 2017.

Mr Farooq pointed out that inadvertent crossings were a chronic problem in Jammu and Kashmir, and authorities from both sides had decided a while ago that such crossers would be repatriated to their respective sides at the earliest.

“We have always upheld that commitment in letter and in spirit, but India has mostly ended up treating inadvertent crossers inhumanely,” he said, referring to the killing of a woman in February this year by India’s Border Security Force. The woman had inadvertently crossed the Working Boundary near Sialkot.

In sharp contrast to that attitude, Pakistan handed over two youths to the Indian authorities, who had separately strayed into the AJK territory from the LoC, as a goodwill gesture.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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