Sun, Oct 30, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Line of Control set to be relaxed

AFP , BHUKARI, INDIA

Earthquake survivors queue for supplies at Hatian Bala, some 40km from Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, on Friday. Indian diplomats were due to visit Pakistan yesterday for talks on getting relief across the Line of Control.

PHOTO: AP

Survivors of the earthquake that buried Bhukari village have one major concern if relatives from the Pakistani zone of divided Kashmir come look for them -- they will not recognize each other.

Bhukari is a short walk from the final border village of Teetwal in Indian-administered Kashmir where the government plans to set up one of three centers so people from the Pakistan side can get relief and meet relatives.

"It is hard. I must admit I will not be able to recognize them as I have not seen them at all," said Abduk Rashid, 56, from a camp set up for survivors by the army and government in agricultural fields amid the haystacks.

"I came to know from some friends that two of my relatives died in the quake. If they open the border I can send word with [someone] to find out," Rashid said.

Indian and Pakistani officials were slated to meet in Islamabad yesterday to thrash out the practicalities of opening the Line of Control that divides Kashmir.

The nuclear-armed rivals claim Kashmir in full and have fought two wars over the territory.

India says survivors from the Pakistani zone can visit the relief camps in daylight hours, be treated and gather supplies, and then cross back again. Pakistan has proposed five crossing points where relief can be facilitated.

But those in Bhukari were unaware of the plans to open the border and some didn't even know it was officially known as the Line of Control.

"What is the Line of Control?" asked agricultural laborer Ali Akbar. "We know if we walk for under an hour we can reach Pakistan. Are they allowing us to the other side? When? If they open I will go to enquire about my relatives.

"I do not know how to reach them. They too do not have a telephone and the last letter they wrote came about a year ago. I do not know if they are alive," Akbar, who was stitching his old and torn clothes inside a tent, said.

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