Residents in PoK stage anti-militant protests
Residents of the Neelum Valley in PoK have staged protests against renewed militant activity in the area.
Islamabad: Residents of the Neelum Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) have staged protests against renewed militant activity in the area due to fears that the presence of rebels could jeopardise a nearly eight-year-old ceasefire with India.
Local residents said militants from the Pakistani heartland are flocking to Neelum Valley and crossing into Jammu and Kashmir to launch attacks there, the BBC reported.
The residents feared that retaliatory fire from the Indian side might threaten life in Neelum Valley and a ceasefire that was put in place in late 2003. The area was a major staging post for militants during 1990-2003.
Information about the latest spate of protests in Neelum Valley trickled out slowly as the area is very remote, the report said.
During a congregation to mark the Eid festival on August 31, residents of Athmuqam town passed a resolution which declared that any attempt to disrupt peace in the area would be resisted by the people.
A week later, two large demonstrations were held in Athmuqam to protest the influx of militants, which local residents argued had sparked border skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani forces.
On Tuesday, hundreds of school children held another protest march in Athmuqam and submitted a list of demands to officials at a military camp.
Local residents told the BBC that there had been an increased militant presence in the area. They said the language and dress of most of the militants coming to the area suggested they were from Punjab province.
The Neelum Valley is a long, narrow strip of land, most of which lies within the firing range of Indian soldiers positioned along the border in Jammu and Kashmir.
At the height of the Pakistan-backed insurgency, it was one of the areas along the Line of Control that was worst affected by violence and exchanges of fire between troops on the two sides.
The report said the tricky mountain passes of the Neelum Valley made it an important transit route for militants crossing into Jammu and Kashmir.
During the 1990s, retaliatory fire from Indian troops killed hundreds of residents and destroyed homes, hospitals and schools, the report said. People were forced to spend most of their time in bunkers.
An Indian Army spokesman told BBC in early September that attempts by militants to cross over from the Pakistani side had heightened tensions along the border.
Two incidents of cross-border firing left at least four Pakistani soldiers dead in the first week of September.