International skiers take to the slopes in Pakistan

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The Naltar Ski Resort has been at the heart of Pakistan’s efforts to draw winter sport tourists. (AFP)
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Pakistan remains off-piste for most winter sports enthusiasts after years of conflict and a lack of infrastructure. (AFP)
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Security has dramatically improved across Pakistan following a crackdown on militant groups in recent years. (AFP)
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Skiers at the Naltar event were hosted by the Pakistan Air Force, who own the ski resort. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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International skiers take to the slopes in Pakistan

  • Pakistan boasted unrivaled ski conditions, says International Ski Federation official
  • Naltar Ski Resort attracts winter sport tourists to Pakistan

NALTAR, Pakistan: Skiers descend in long, rhythmic swoops down pristine white slopes in northern Pakistan, braking in a spray of snow as soldiers carrying semi-automatic weapons watch impassively.
Dozens of athletes took part at a rare international competition in the South Asian country, which boasts some of the world’s highest mountains but remains off-piste for most winter sports enthusiasts after years of conflict and a lack of infrastructure.
Nestled in the Karakoram mountain range, the Naltar Ski Resort has been at the heart of Pakistan’s efforts to draw winter sport tourists since the first international competition was held there in 2015.
“Pakistan has a lot of things to learn but with every year it’s getting better,” said Ukrainian skier Anastasiia Gorbunova, who admitted she used to think it was a “pretty dangerous country.”
“Now I know it’s a cliche because as I saw, people are sweet, they are nice, they try to make you feel like you’re at home and I appreciate that.”
Security has dramatically improved across Pakistan following a crackdown on militant groups in recent years.
Authorities recently re-opened another resort in the nearby Swat Valley that had been closed for years by insurgent activity, while other ski facilities are being developed elsewhere in the country.
Laura Moore, a representative of the International Ski Federation with the Azerbaijan team, said Pakistan boasted unrivalled ski conditions.
But she added that lengthy road travel and the regular grounding of flights during inclement weather made access to ski fields a tricky prospect — “off-piste and maybe with a helicopter.”
“I think it’s definitely more for the adventurer,” Moore said at Sunday’s competition.
Pakistan is home to several peaks higher than 8,000 meters including K2, the second-tallest mountain in the world.
Skiers at the Naltar event were hosted by the Pakistan Air Force, who own the ski resort and facilitated their transport from the capital Islamabad.
“Not all countries have mountains like this,” Berkin Usta, a Turkish skier who won the men’s Grand Slalom event. “It’s really good.”


Jadhav case: Pakistan, India to face off in ICJ on Monday

Updated 16 February 2019
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Jadhav case: Pakistan, India to face off in ICJ on Monday

  • Pakistani delegation to argue case in UN court left for The Hague on Friday 
  • ‘Will except the final decision of the ICJ,’ Pakistan says

ISLAMABAD: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will resume on February 18 public hearing in Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case that was initiated by New Delhi against Islamabad in order to get consular access to its incarcerated citizen.
India claims that Jadhav was apprehended on trumped up charges.
The Pakistani delegation that will argue the case in the UN court, left for The Hague on Friday. 
According to the court’s schedule, the public hearings in the case will commence from February 18 till 21 in The Hague. Attorney General Anwar Man­soor will lead Pakistani delegation while Harish Salve represents New Delhi in the world court.
Salve is expected to argue first on February 18 followed by English Queen’s Counsel Khawar Qureshi making submissions on February 19 from Islamabad’s side.
An Indian naval official, Commander Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, was arrested by Pakistan in March 2016 from the impoverished and rebel-infested Baluchistan province during a counter-intelligence operation. 
Islamabad claims he confessed to his involvement in subversive activities and espionage against Pakistan working for India’s premier intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Placed on trial by a military court in Pakistan, Jadhav was found guilty and sentenced to death a month later.
India, however approached the world court in May 2016, invoking the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Subsequently, the court passed an order directing Pakistan to stay the execution, pending a final decision.
Islamabad has made Jadhav’s statements public, but New Delhi has countered that the officer is retired, that he was kidnapped from Iran, and that he had been made to confess under duress to fabricated charges. 
“We will accept the final decision of the ICJ,” a senior foreign office official said, adding “there are more charges of terrorism and sabotage that he will be charged with after the court’s judgment.”
It may be recalled that Pakistan gave access to Jhadav’s family on humanitarian grounds in December 2017. Officials say Islamabad would be willing to entertain a request in future if his family submits an application to meet the ill-fated spy.
“There are specific instances (of terrorism) that he has confessed to and those cases against him are pending” but India needs to answer six key points of Pakistan against its demand to ICJ to order for the return of Jadhav, the official explained to Arab News.
In a special handout given to Arab News, Pakistan argues that India failed to provide evidence that Jadhav was kidnapped. It also failed to explain why and when the officer retired and why he was in possession of an authentic Indian passport under a false cover Muslim name. Why is India demanding his return pending an international court decision, another question Islamabad raised? Consular access cannot be granted to a person implicated in national security matters under the 2008 Agreement on Consular Access between both sides, argues Pakistan. 
India will scheduled to respond to submissions from Pakistan’s side before the ICJ on February 20 and the closing argument by Pakistan will be presented the day after. Islamabad expects the ICJ may deliver its final decision by summers this year.