November 2005 News

Nine more Kashmiris cross Line of Control

26 November 2005
The Daily Times

Chialiana: Nine Indian Kashmiris crossed the fortified frontier that divides the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir on Saturday, the latest to make the trip since a landmark decision to open the border after an earthquake devastated the disputed Himalayan region.The Kashmiris walked across a suspension bridge built over the river that forms the frontier after India and Pakistan eased controls in a move meant to reunite families following the October 8 quake that killed an estimated 86,000 in Pakistan and 1,350 in India.'I have seven relatives who were killed in Muzaffarabad,' said Somi Begun, one of three women making the crossing, referring to the Muzaffarabad. 'I have come to console my surviving family members.'She said she had not been on the Pakistani side in 40 years. Many Kashmiris have been separated from their relatives since the frontier was drawn after a 1948 war between the neighbouring countries, leaving most of Kashmir with India and a smaller part with Pakistan. 'This earthquake gave us a chance to cross this small river, which is a big barrier between the divided families,' said Abdul Razak, 65, who was greeted by his 18-year-old nephew. 'We came to meet our relatives and offer prayers for the departed souls.'A week ago, 23 Indians became the first to cross the frontier legally in 58 years. Two days later, seven more Indians crossed carrying clothes and gifts for relatives in Pakistan. Nobody has crossed from the Pakistani side because of delays in approval from Indian authorities, but Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that India had given permission for 127 people, clearing a list submitted by the Pakistani government earlier this month. 'The names of 127 people have been cleared and they should be able to cross the Line of Control to meet with their relatives soon,' ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.Also on Saturday, Hollywood star Angelina Jolie visited a US Army field hospital in Muzaffarabad as part of a three-day visit to Pakistan in her role as a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Jolie, accompanied by actor Brad Pitt, also flew by helicopter to a nearby village in the mountains, carrying food supplies to quake survivors, UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said. After an initial visit to the quake zone on Thursday, Jolie called on Friday for swift aid to avoid a new disaster with the onset of the harsh Himalayan winter, saying people whose homes in mountain villages were destroyed are particularly vulnerable.Her appeal was echoed by the top UN official coordinating the relief effort, who stressed the importance of immediate relief and expressed concern that the focus of support may be shifting too soon to long-term reconstruction. The top agricultural official in Azad Kashmir, Chaudhri Abdul Shaoor, said authorities had begun distributing some 850 tonnes of seeds and fertiliser from international agencies. He said efforts to repair damaged farmland would begin after winter crops are harvested early next year.


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