MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan beseeched governments and private donors to give generously to help millions of Pakistanis rebuild lives and homes destroyed by last month's devastating earthquake.

Despite killing 73,000 people in Pakistan and about 1,300 in India, the disaster has failed to elicit the same outpouring of support from the world community as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina did earlier this year.

"We received some resources, but need much, much more to be able to help the people," Annan said on arrival in Pakistan for an international donors' conference.

The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other lenders, representatives from foreign governments, including India, as well as corporate leaders, will attend the conference.

The meeting will focus on the long-term task of reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The estimated cost for rebuilding roads, housing, schools, hospitals and the civil administration, and restoring people's livelihoods in Pakistan is put at $5.2 billion.

Yet, so far, Pakistan has had just over $300 million pledged toward these tasks.

"I would expect the world, those with capacity, to give generously and give willingly, and I'm not just speaking to the governments but also to the private sector and individuals who can contribute," Annan said.

US President George Bush, in a telephone call from South Korea, where he is attending an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, promised President Pervez Musharraf that he would help raise awareness of Pakistan's plight.

The devastation affected 3.3 million people and left hundreds of thousands homeless, with winter fast approaching in the Himalayan region.

International support for the rescue and relief effort in the weeks after the Oct. 8 quake won Pakistan's gratitude, but even then UN aid agencies have warned they would have to wind down vital helicopter relief missions unless they got more money soon.

People in the mountains remain vulnerable with the winter closing and there are also fears of disease spreading in squalid tent settlements that have sprouted in the towns.

Annan, who had warned that there could be a second wave of death unless the world woke up to the scale of the disaster, said more lives would have been saved if aid had arrived faster.

But the United Nations has been criticised too.

US goodwill envoy Karen Hughes said this week on a visit to Pakistan that the United Nations could be doing more, and aid group Oxfam reckoned that the UN lacked manpower on the ground.

"We need a huge upscaling of the UN response," said Ben Phillips, South Asia policy coordinator for Oxfam, said.

"Our main criticism is of the donors for not giving enough money and of the UN for not sending in enough people," he said.

While Pakistan's army has been at the forefront of relief efforts, New York based Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling for greater civilian oversight and independent auditing of funds to guard against corruption and political favouritism.

"Given its record of abuse and corruption, the Pakistani military should not be given carte blanche in the relief efforts," said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.

"To keep the process honest, civil society must be given a significant role both in delivery and oversight." Meantime, anti-Western Islamist opposition parties have also won new friends in quake-hit areas.

"Only Jamaat-e-Islami came to help us. I will devote myself to the Jamaat-e-Islami," said Mohammad Saeed, a carpenter, who along with 50 others joined the Islamist party in Balakot, the worst-hit town in North West Frontier Province.

Just as the UN secretary-general arrived in Pakistan, 24 elderly Kashmiris went home to the Indian side of Kashmir.

It was the first movement of people across the disputed border since the quake struck almost six weeks ago.

They had gone over to see relatives on the Pakistani side on a fortnightly bus service that opened in April thanks to a thaw in relations between India and Pakistan.

After the quake, the service was suspended as the Friendship Bridge across the stream between Chakothi in Pakistan and Uri in India had collapsed and roads were blocked by landslides.

The South Asian neighbours agreed last month, for humanitarian reasons, to open five crossings on the militarised Line of Control and have made partly symbolic exchanges of relief goods, but there have been delays in letting people across.

"I desperately wanted to come home and see with my eyes if everybody survived. I still don't know what is the situation here in my home," Haji Mohammad Rafiq told Reuters after he returned home to Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side.

Pakistani officials say they expect more people to be allowed to cross both ways at all the border points later this month.

- REUTERS