Border Opens As Quake Cash Pledged
19 November 2005
Islamabad: International donors pledged £1.75 billion in aid to quake-hit Pakistan yesterday as Kashmiri villagers made a historic and emotional foot crossing over the disputed boundary with India. The promises came during a one-day donor conference of about 50 countries in Islamabad bringing the total aid to $5.4bn (£3.14bn). The World Bank and Asian Development Bank were the main donors, giving £582m each, while the US and Saudi Arabia pledged about £291m each. Britain has offered £70m over three years. Article continues The money will be mostly used for reconstruction in Kashmir and North West Frontier Provinces, where the 8 October earthquake flattened towns, killed 73,000 people and left over 80,000 seriously injured. The funds will also go towards emergency operations in the Himalayas, where aid workers are racing help to 500,000 homeless people as the winter closes in. Opening yesterday's conference UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described it as 'one of the most challenging relief operations ever undertaken'. An accelerated thaw in relations with neighbouring India has been one of the quake's few silver linings. Yesterday it resulted in the first official foot crossings across the disputed Line of Control for 58 years. Some 23 civilians walked across a narrow footbridge from the Indian village of Teethwal, one of five designated crossing points. They were led by 82-year-old Begum Jaan, who was welcomed by Pakistan army officers before setting off to visit relatives with her son. Khair-ul-Nissa Shah, 62, was next. She was going to see her sisters for the first time in 40 years. 'I will see who has survived,' she said. In Islamabad, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf told donors the calamity provided the 'opportunity of a lifetime' for India and Pakistan to resolve their differences. 'If leaders fail to grasp fleeting opportunities, they fail their nations and peoples,' he said. 'Let success and happiness emerge from the ruins of this catastrophe, especially for the people of Kashmir.' Thousands of families have been divided by the conflict, which caused two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1948. A limited bus service linking the two sides has been in operation since April. But a deep gulf of suspicion remains between the nuclear rivals. Yesterday's crossings were strictly one-way because India has yet to clear a list of 127 people submitted by Pakistan.