Four civilians and one soldier of Pakistan Army were martyred on Friday in ‘unprovoked and indiscriminate’ firing by Indian troops from across the Line of Control (LoC) in several areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the military’s media wing said. At least 12 civilians and five soldiers also sustained injuries in the ceasefire violations in what appeared to be the biggest escalation in hostilities on the LoC in months. India also suffered ‘substantial losses’ in terms of troops and material in Pakistan Army’s ‘befitting reply’ to the firing, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement. A report by The Hindu said 10 people, including six civilians, three army soldiers and one Border Security Force (BSF) soldier, were killed and more than 20 others injured in firing by Pakistani troops in four districts of Indian-occupied Kashmir. Giving background of the latest flare-up, the ISPR said on the night of November 7-8, the Indian army reportedly had an ‘encounter’ with a few freedom fighters in Kupwara district, ‘well within’ occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s territory, opposite Neelum Valley in AJK. During the clash, Indian troops suffered some casualties including four soldiers. “To ward off the humiliation faced by Indian Army in front of domestic audience, instead of finding the reasons from within and addressing the same, on November 13, 2020, Indian Army opted for resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate fire of all calibres, including artillery and heavy mortars, along [the] LoC in various sectors of AJK,” the statement added. The areas targeted by Indian troops included Neelum Valley (Nekrun, Kel, Sharda, Dudhnial, Shahkot, Jura, Nauseri sectors), Leepa Valley (Danna, Mandal and Kayani sectors), Jhelum Valley (Chham and Pandu sectors), and Bagh Valley (Pirkanthi, Sankh, Haji Pir, Bedori and Kailer sectors). Besides engaging with Pakistan Army posts and positions, Indian troops also targeted the civilian population along the LoC “in utter disregard to all international obligations and human rights”, leaving four people dead and 12 others injured. “In response to this provocative act, Pakistan Army gave a befitting reply to the Indian Army, and effectively targeted those Indian posts which engaged innocent civilians,” the press release added. It said “substantial losses, both in terms of men and material, have been incurred on to Indian troops” that have also been accepted by Indian media. India’s confirmed losses are “much more than being acknowledged”, it added. During the exchange of fire, a Pakistan Army soldier was martyred, while five others were injured. “Such cowardly acts of targeting innocent civilians reflect sheer lack of morality, utter un-professionalism and total disregard [of] human rights by the Indian Army and are also [a] clear violation of [the] ceasefire understanding of 2003,” the military’s media wing stated. It reiterated that “Pakistan is a peace-loving country and [the] Pakistan Army pursue the same aspirations.” “However, we stand committed to defend the motherland and our Kashmiri brethren even at the cost of our blood and lives,” it said, adding that “all such provocative acts shall continue to be responded in the same coin.” Meanwhile, Islamabad on Friday rejected the ‘gratuitous remarks’ by the spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs regarding the state of minorities in Pakistan and baseless allegations regarding terrorism. “As a perpetrator of unabated state terrorism in occupied Kashmir and systemic state-sponsored discrimination against its own minorities, India is in no position to pontificate on the issue of terrorism or minority rights elsewhere,” said FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudri in a statement. The statement comes after India had called the killing of an elderly Ahmadi man in Peshawar earlier this week a “sad reflection of the state of minorities in Pakistan”. “One after another, Ahmadis are being targeted in Peshawar while the government has repeatedly failed to protect and stop the violence against the members of the community,” the Indian spokesman said, according to The Wire. “Regurgitation of fabricated accusations by India does not turn a falsehood into truth,” the FO spokesman said in the statement issued on Friday. “Such desperate attempts will not succeed in diverting attention from India’s domestic and foreign policy failures. If anything, these will further undermine India’s credibility as a responsible country. “India must eschew the use of state terrorism as an instrument of state policy, end its egregious violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people, resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute according to UN Security Council resolutions, and take concrete steps to safeguard minorities, including their right to life and protection of their places of worship,” Chaudhri said.