Bracing Indian firing for years, Leepa Valley village returns to normalcy

Normalcy has returned to the small town of Leepa valley located along the Line of Control in Azad Jammu and Kashmir since 26th February this year, when both Pakistan and India had announced respect for the ceasefire understanding. However people demanded more steps beyond the ceasefire which could bring everlasting peace in the region.

Civilian population of the valley were a direct target of the Indian forces, scores of people were martyred and injured due to the Indian firing and shelling which continued for years and years. Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan made a hotline contact and later announced respect to the ceasefire understanding reached between the two countries in 2003.

The valley remained under blatant attacks of Indian security forces from across the LoC for the past many years. Indian military posts located on the hilltop made it easy for them to open fire and artillery shelling on innocent population.

During a day-long visit to the area, this scribe spoke freely to the local population, who expressed a sigh of relief on the ceasefire announcement and expressed their gratitude to the Pakistan Army and government for making the ceasefire possible.

The only road link connecting the valley with AJK capital Muzaffarabad, remained under direct attack by Indian firing and shelling, making it difficult for local population to travel for necessary work in Muzaffarabad, but now they travel to Muzaffarabad and Islamabad without fear of attack by Indian forces.

The media also witnessed the resumption of development work which was suspended due to the Indian firing earlier has been resumed now and focus is on multiple areas.

Male and female students at a nearby Army Public College expressed extreme pleasure that their college has been resumed after this ceasefire announcement. They said now they are able to concentrate on their studies for better results.

Ehsanul Haq, a young Kashmiri advocate, commented that most of the local people migrated to Pakistan due to the heavy Indian firing and shelling, but after 26th February, these people are returning to their homes. “This is dividends of the ceasefire and peace,” Haq commented.

Due to the suspension of development work over the past many years, roads in the area are in a dilapidated condition and the AJK government has immediately started repairing the roads which in the future will help in promoting tourism.

The area is attractive for tourists due to its natural landscape beautiful valleys, mountains, and streams.

Leepa valley produces best honey known as crystal white natural honey, if more attention is paid this would be marketed with proper packaging and marketing. The valley has trees of walnut which produces the best walnut in the region. Traders from Pakistan visit the area and get a tree for 500 rupees to pluck walnuts from trees and earn many times higher income as profit.

A local women talking to this scribe expressed gratitude to the Pakistan Army for the ceasefire and said her five years old son had got injured due to the Indian firing but he survived due quick medical treatment.

“It was very difficult to move to Bazaars for shopping as we used to remain under fear of Indian firing,” the woman commented. “Now I am here at Bazaar with my children,” she added.

This scribe also found the local population extremely mindful of the political developments in connection with the Kashmir issue made it clear that the issue be resolved in accordance with the UN resolutions.

“We want Pakistan to build political and diplomatic pressure on India for implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir,” Khawaja Ahmed, a local resident, commented. He said the ceasefire has brought peace for this small valley for which they are grateful to the Pakistan Army.

During the peak of the Indian firing, the Pakistan Army has constructed 4000 bankers for the safety of the local population. These bunkers are 10 by 10 in the size and given free of cost to the local population.

There are two basic health units in the valley which were not enough for the health needs of the local population, and now the project for construction of tehsil headquarters hospital has been approved with an estimate of 8.5 billion rupees, and the work on the project would start soon which would help in meeting the health requirements of the local people.

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A jeep rally is also being organised in near future in Leepa Valley which would help in promoting tourism in the area.

During interaction, the local population demanded construction on the tunnel of Leepa-Muzaffarabad Road which remains cut off in the winter valley due to heavy snowfall. — Courtesy The Nation

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