Pakistan ready to open LoC for quake relief
18 October 2005
B. Muralidhar Reddy
Islamabad: In a dramatic announcement Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf proposed on Tuesday night opening of the Line of Control to allow people to assist in reconstruction of the ravaged areas in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). He also said Islamabad could consider with New Delhi's consent opening of routes other than Muzaffarabad- Srinagar. Addressing a news conference at Muzaffarabad, the flattened capital of PoK, Gen. Musharraf said that a decision has already been taken to allow mobile companies from both sides to operate in the earthquake-affected areas. He was responding to a question on the travails of people in the worst-affected areas and the nature of cooperation Pakistan was contemplating with India to reach out to the displaced people. 'We will allow any number of people coming across the Line of Control to meet their relatives and assist with reconstruction,' he said. The procedure for allowing people from across the LoC needed to be formalised with India, he added. He said his country was ready to allow political leaders from both sides of the divide to interact and assist each other. He appealed to India to agree to the plan. When a western correspondent asked him about the 'reluctance' of Pakistan to accept the Indian offer on helicopters, he said his country was being unfairly criticised by a section of the media. Pakistan was ready to accept the helicopters but not pilots or military personnel, he said. Given the 'sensitivities involved' this stand should be viewed in the proper perspective. 'Let me say we are ready to accept any number of helicopters without pilots.' India hails remarks PTI reports: Reacting to Gen. Musharraf's offer, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters in New Delhi: 'We have seen news reports. If indeed this is what has been said, India welcomes the remarks. It is in line with India's advocacy of greater movement across the LoC.' India, he said, was willing to facilitate the movement. 'But we wait for word from Pakistan about the practical dimension of implementing this intention.'Mr. Sarna said India has always been in favour of greater people to people contacts. He recalled that before the quake, India had made several confidence building measures like opening up of five points along the LoC to enable divided families to meet. He said four telecom facilitation centres would be set up in Srinagar, Jammu, Uri and Tangdhar to assist divided families across the LoC to contact their kin. He said the centres, are expected to be operational by Wednesday.