Srinagar , India, Asharq Al-Awsat- India restored telephone links between Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir to enable families to contact each other after the earthquake.
Meanwhile, a series of aftershocks in Jammu and Kashmir caused landslides and panic amongst the weary survivors. The first tremor, measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, occurred at midnight, the second at 2:34 am on Wednesday morning and followed by two jolts at 8:04am and 8:45am .
Long queues of men and women of all ages could be seen outside Srinagar police station awaiting their turn to contact their relatives across the border. Some received the dreaded news while others celebrated their relatives’ lucky escape.
Abdul Ghani was after news about his father who boarded a bus to the Pakistani side on 6 October 2005 , two days before the killer quake stuck. He expressed hope the new link “will help me find out about my father.”
In a humanitarian gesture, India has offered its citizens the possibility of calling the Pakistani side, enabling individuals in Jammu and Kashmir to contact their relatives on the other side of the Line of Control (LOC) for a fortnight.
Restrictions on communication between the two sides of the disputed territory have been in place since 1991 when militants took up arms against India and the government in Delhi worried fighters would use telephone liens to communicate amongst each other.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened personally after demands from across the social spectrum in Indian-administered Kashmir . Four centers have been set up, in Jammu , Srinagar , and the badly hit areas of Uri and Tangdhar.
“This represents a great relief. We had been unable to contact my maternal uncle who lives on the other side of the LOC. I was able to speak to a relative today and find out he is safe,” an overjoyed Hannif Bhat said.
However, Mukhtiyar Ahmed, of Jammu province, was not so luck; seventeen of his relatives died in Muzaffarabad.
“My sister is married and lives on the other side of the LOC. I found out her family are all safe and was bale to speak to her today. They have lost everything. If India and Pakistan decide to open the [disputed] border, I can travel and help her,” Rasheeda Begum revealed.
India and Pakistan are currently considering opening the LOC which divides the disputed territory to allow families from either side to move freely.
Severely criticized for turning down Indian offers of assistance to quake-stricken Kashmir , Pakistan President Musharraf proposed that the people of Indian-controlled Kashmir could cross to the Pakistani side and assist in the relief effort, a proposal that was welcomed by Delhi .
Showkat Hussein traveled from the border town of Poonch to Jammu to use the new service, desperately trying to find out information on his brother who left to Pakistan in 1971. “We saw pictures from Rawalkot on television. The town was severely damaged in the quake. I am hoping that by calling his son in Rawalpindi , I will find out he is alive.”