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As Pakistan Army dithers, PoK family awaits son’s body

Google Maps image locates Minimarg and the Kishenganga river.

Google Maps image locates Minimarg and the Kishenganga river.  

Site to hand over body not yet decided.

The body of an eight-year-old boy from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), who was found dead four kilometres inside Kashmir in the Kishenganga river on Tuesday, was moved over 200 km on Wednesday as the Pakistan Army kept changing the site to hand over the body.

“The two Armies (India and Pakistan) established contact (on Tuesday) after a video was uploaded by the family living in PoK’s Minimarg across the river. The boy was identified but the location for exchange kept changing on Wednesday,” Shahbaz Ahmed Mirza, Deputy Commissioner, Bandipora, told The Hindu.

The family of Abid Sheikh, a student in PoK, in a video uploaded online, said the boy had left for school on July 8 but did not return home. They suspect he fell off the cliff into the river and was washed four km across the LoC in J&K's Gurez valley.

The family learnt of the death after the boy’s picture went viral on the social media in Jammu and Kashmir. “My only appeal to people of India is to help in returning the body of my son. I will be indebted. Our Army chief should also play a positive role,” Nazir Sheikh, the boy’s father, said in a video.

The moving posts written by locals and the relatives on social media in PoK and the family’s video forced the Indian and Pakistani armies on Tuesday to establish a hotline.

However, the body remained in India till 7 p.m. on Wednesday as the Pakistan Army insisted on receiving the body in Kupwara’s Teetwal area, over 150 km away from Gurez. Locals said the Teetwal route would have taken at least two days for the body to reach the victim's in PoK’s Gilgit-Baltistan area, as the distance is of more than 800 km.

“Pakistan Army mentioned hidden landmines on the LoC in Gurez as a reason not to exchange the body and suggested Teetwal instead. However, Pakistan later agreed for a spot in Churwan in Gurez. We had to first flag off the body towards Kupwara and had to drive back to Gurez. We are hopeful to handover the body as soon as it reaches the LoC. Since mobile network does not work, the final confirmation will be issued only tomorrow,” said Mr. Sheikh.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Bandipora, Rahul Malik confirmed to the body was in India till late Wednesday evening. “We are pursuing the exchange. We are in the process to identify the final spot to hand over the body,” said SSP Malik.

The delay in handing over the body has spurred an online campaign for immediate action.

“Being a native of Astore in Gilgit-baltistan, it is with a heavy heart that I appeal to the concerned authorities to look into the case of the drowned little angel from Astore, whose body was found in Gurez. I hope the body can eventually be repatriated on the humanitarian grounds,” tweeted Asma Khan Lone, wife of Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 3:57:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/as-pakistan-army-dithers-pok-family-awaits-sons-body/article28363590.ece

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