October 2005 News

Call For Opening Kashmir Borders

16 October 2005
BBC

Islamabad: The leader of Pakistani-administered Kashmir has called for the opening of the border with Indian Kashmir to help earthquake relief operations. The leader of the governing party in Indian-administered Kashmir told the BBC she supported the idea. Pakistan says more than 38,000 were killed by the earthquake a week ago. Late on Saturday, a military helicopter on a relief mission crashed in bad weather in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, killing all six on board. The MI-17 transport helicopter had been ferrying relief workers, but all those on board when it crashed near Bagh were military personnel, officials say. Millions homeless As relief efforts continue, the number of injured is said to have risen to more than 60,000, with hundreds of villages are still cut off, and bad weather has been hampering relief efforts. Map of earthquake zone Pakistan's latest estimate increases the previous toll by 13,000. At least 1,400 died in Indian- administered Kashmir. Relief agencies expressed concern about the weather's effects on the homeless - with children especially vulnerable. Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao told the AFP news agency the number of homeless had now risen to around 3.3m. He said the quake had cost Pakistan $5bn in infrastructure losses. UN top relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland, has said billions of dollars will be needed for the aid effort. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia announced an aid package worth $133m for Pakistan. Adopt a village The leader of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan, told the BBC Hindi service that cooperation was needed as 'we have to save humanity'. Mr Khan said Pakistan couldn't reach many areas close to the Line of Control (LoC) which divides Kashmir, and similarly there were areas not accessible to India. 'So, if the borders are opened it would be good for citizens on both sides. This will also add to the warmth and love between the two countries.' President Musharraf had welcomed India's offer to help along the LoC but declined to accept it saying there were 'sensitivities' involved. The leader of the ruling PDP party in Indian-administered Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, said hundreds of lives could have been saved after the earthquake, had President Musharraf accepted the offer of help from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But she added: 'We can't blame anyone due to the prevailing situation. If Pakistan had made a similar offer I can't say with confidence that we would have agreed to it.' She suggested India could adopt some villages on the Pakistani Kashmir side and Pakistan could also do the same for reconstruction purposes. 'If we can't help each other at a time like this, when can we do so?'

 

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