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Pakistan to build community bunkers on Kashmir border

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Pakistan army has launched a project to build underground bunkers for safety of local residents living near the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto border that divides the disputed Himalayan valley between Pakistan and India, an official said.

The bunkers will also be constructed in every school near the de facto border to protect the children in case of any cease-fire violation by Indian forces, a local commander of Pakistan army told a group of foreign media journalists in Chakothi sector of Azad Kashmir on Thursday.

"So far we have constructed around 70 community bunkers in areas along the LoC for protection of civilians, as India has escalated cease-fire violations and targeted civilian population in our areas," the army commander said.

He said that security bunkers were already constructed in every village for soldiers to protect local residents and to timely respond if Indian forces target the civilian population.

"Twenty-seven civilians have been martyred and dozen others wounded in Indian forces' firing on our areas in 2019," the army official claimed.

According to local residents, many people have already built small bunkers in their houses as the region remain tensed since 2016, following the killing of popular Kashmiri militant commander Burhan Wani in Jammu and Kashmir.

"Many people have constructed small bunkers in their houses, however poor people couldn't afford to build it in their houses," Raja Muzaffar, a local resident of Chakoti, a border village near LoC, told Anadolu Agency.

The government of Pakistan should help these poor people construct bunkers in their houses, he added.

However, Muzaffar didn't endorse the idea of community bunkers, stressing the bunkers inside houses are more helpful and safer.

Tension in border areas

On Thursday, Pakistan army escorted a group of foreign media journalists based in Pakistan to the heavily militarized border with India, as tension looms between the two South Asian nuclear neighbors following New Delhi's Aug. 5 move to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir is under near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5 after India scrapped the special provisions, according to several rights group, including the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

India blocked communications and imposed strict restrictions to thwart any rebellion while political leaders in the region have been detained as the right groups repeatedly called on New Delhi to lift the restrictions and release political detainees.

"My cousins are living on the Indian side around 500 meters away from our village but we have no contact with them since Aug. 5," Ghulam Ali, a young Kashmiri in Chakothi, told Anadolu Agency.

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir had special provisions under which it enacted its own laws. The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

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