PaK helicopter which was fired upon by Indian Army at Poonch after violating airspace agreement had PaK PM on board: Report

PaK PM Raja Farooq (left) with Minhas in the chopper. Image Courtesy: Indian Express

A Pakistani civilian helicopter was fired at by Indian Army troops after it violated the airspace agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K’s Poonch sector around noon Sunday, officials said, Indian Express reported.

It returned undamaged after about a minute, they said.

Express quoted Pakistan-Administered Kashmir’s Tourism Minister Mushtaq Minhas saying that he was on board the helicopter at the time, along with PaK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan, the PM’s personal security officer, and the province’s Education Minister Ifthikar Gilani.

“We had no idea that we had breached (the airspace agreement), nor did we know that we were being fired at. When we landed at our destination, we learnt that there was firing on our chopper from the Indian side,” Minhas said.

Indian officials said the helicopter, painted white, hovered over the Karmara area in the Sarla battalion sector nearly 8 km from Poonch town around 12.13 pm, breaking the agreement between India and Pakistan that no helicopter can come within one km of the LoC and no fixed wing aircraft within 10 km.

The Defence Ministry spokesperson in Jammu, Lt Colonel Devender Anand, said that the helicopter breached the agreement by 700m. “Army troops along the LoC fired at it using small arms. The chopper returned without any damage,” he said.

According to Minhas, the pilot did not get any message from the ATC. “But that was possibly because it was not a government or military helicopter. This was privately arranged. We planned the visit the night before. We had to go to a place called Samahni for a condolence visit. It’s a seven-hour journey by road, so we decided that it would be best to go by helicopter. We stopped at Forward Kahuta to meet people in the area, which is surrounded on three sides by the LoC,” he said.

According to Standard Operating Procedure, two IAF fighter jets were airborne as soon as the violation was reported by the Army. But they were not required as the helicopter returned.

A purported video of the incident showed a helicopter flying against the backdrop of hills, and small arms fire could be heard in the background. “After crossing Abbaspur, we got a nice view of Poonch city on the right, but we didn’t think it was unusual because we see Poonch all the time from Chirikot on our side,” Minhas said.

The PaK Minister also denied reports in India that the incident was a Pakistan Army “plot” to assassinate the PaK PM, citing the ATC’s failure to alert the pilot.

“Nothing like that at all. When we landed at Forward Kahuta, our Army officials advised us to take another route to Samahni. So we flew there via Rawalkote and returned to Islamabad safely,” Minhas said.

Fresh tensions have sprouted among both neighbours after after India called off talks with Pakistan citing killing of a BSF personnel, killing of cops in Kashmir and ‘glorifying’ Burhan Wani by issuing postage stamps. Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan called the move ‘arrogant and disappointing.’

In a statement issued by the Pakistan Foreign Office said that the reasons cited by the Indian side for the decision to cancel the foreign ministers’ meeting, within 24 hours of its public confirmation, are entirely unconvincing. 

Moreover India had also said that Pakistan has issued stamps glorifying slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani.

PDP President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday reacting to the killings of policemen said that Government of India’s ‘muscular policy’ is clearly not working in the valley.

She also added that dialogue now seems to be a ‘distant dream’.

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