Pakistani Army Takes Journalists To Kashmiri Border To Highlight Work To Secure It
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A report now from our correspondent in Pakistan. Usually the Pakistani army does not allow foreigners to enter the part of Kashmir that it holds. But amid tensions with India over the Himalayan territory, it invited reporters for a brief, escorted tour. And they included NPR's Diaa Hadid.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: We flew by military helicopter...
(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER ROTOR)
HADID: ...Over mountains dense with pines and reached an army base planted with roses and apple trees. We were shuffled onto a bus to an observation room near the Line of Control that divides Pakistani and Indian Kashmir. An officer shows us an Indian army post just a few dozen feet away.
Is that really the Indian flag over there?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Indian flag flying near their post.
HADID: He points at a bridge once plied by passenger buses and cargo trucks.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We call it the friendship bridge, but they didn't go for the friendship. We thought that with the travel and the trade, we can have a peaceful solution of Kashmir dispute.
HADID: There's no traffic on the bridge now, and you can hear the river below.
(SOUNDBITE OF RIVER FLOWING)
HADID: Tensions have been high since August 5, when India scaled back the autonomy of the part of Kashmir under its control. Both countries claim the entire Himalayan state. But Pakistani army officers here say they don't want a war with India and worry they'll be blamed if Kashmiri militants attack Indian forces, so they bought foreign reporters here to show they're securing the border.
They also let us speak to the residents for a few minutes at the border village of Chakothi. In the tiny bazaar, there's a crush of reporters, intelligence officials in civilian clothes and men in uniforms, so it's hard for folks to speak freely.
NOOR MOHAMMAD: (Foreign language spoken).
HADID: Noor Mohammad's 76 with a snowy white beard. He says, a few weeks ago, India fired shells toward homes in the village.
MOHAMMAD: (Foreign language spoken).
HADID: He says he and his son and his grandchildren huddled in a bunker under his home. Mohammad says the bunker cost him nearly $6,000. He says the government hasn't helped. Army officials say they're building communal bunkers. Sidra Fatima's in the sixth grade, and she's wearing a blue uniform. She says she has trouble sleeping. She's afraid there'll be more shelling, and so she recites the Quran for protection.
SIDRA FATIMA: (Foreign language spoken).
HADID: Last time, she and her eight siblings ran to her uncle's house because he has a bunker. She says it's 10 minutes away.
SIDRA: Ten minute.
HADID: But if she runs, she can make it in six minutes.
Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Chakothi.
(SOUNDBITE OF FOLLOWED BY GHOSTS' "A NEW DAWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.