Climbers arrive in Pakistan to claim mountaineering’s last great prize: winter ascent of K2

The moon illuminates the snow-covered Concordia, the confluence of the Baltoro and Godwin-Austen glaciers, near the world's second highest mountain, the K2, in the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan September 6, 2014 (Reuters)
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Updated 23 December 2020
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Climbers arrive in Pakistan to claim mountaineering’s last great prize: winter ascent of K2

  • Over five dozen climbers from countries including Nepal, the United States, Iceland, and Spain are in Pakistan for K2’s winter expedition
  • Of the 14 mountains that rise to at least 8,000 meters, K2 is the only one unclimbed during winter because of its high winds and especially steep and icy slopes

ISLAMABAD: Chyang Dawa Sherpa is in Pakistan to attempt what no human has ever achieved before: a winter ascent of the K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain. He is not alone.
Over five dozen climbers from different countries, including Nepal, the United States, Iceland, and Spain, have arrived in Pakistan in the last few weeks to claim one of the last remaining great prizes in mountaineering.
Of the 14 mountains that rise to at least 8,000 meters (26,246 feet), the K2, at 28,251 feet, is the only one unclimbed during winter, when avalanches are an ever-present risk, temperatures can fall to -65C and winds blow with the power of cyclones. The mountain has earned the nickname ‘savage mountain’ or ‘killer mountain’ for the large number of mountaineers — 86 — who have lost their lives climbing it.
In 2008, 11 mountaineers from international expeditions died on the K2 in what is considered the single worst accident in the history of mountaineering on the peak.
“I really want to make this mountaineering dream come true,” Sherpa, 38, who is leading a team of climbers from over 15 countries to K2’s peak, told Arab News.




Nepali climber Chyang Dawa Sherpa talks to Arab News in Islamabad, Pakistan, on December 19, 2020 (AN photo by Nisar Ali) 

The K2 straddles the Pakistan-China border and though it is about two and a half football fields shorter than Everest, it is widely considered earth’s toughest and most dangerous mountain to climb. In fact, a winter ascent has only been attempted five times prior to 2019, according to the National Geographic.
“K2 is very technical and also very cold, very harsh weather, it’s very challenging,” said Sherpa, who until last year was the youngest person in the world to have summited all 14 peaks over 8,000 meters other than the K2. His younger brother has now broken his record. “People who tried and failed; they say it’s very cold. They never see the sun on this mountain.”
When asked if he was afraid to attempt the winter summit of the K2 given that so many others had failed and many had died, Sherpa smiled and said: “This is a mountain … it’s risky, there is danger … Sometimes airplanes also crash but people don’t stop flying. In mountaineering [it is] also the same: some people [go] missing, some accidents [happen] but we don’t care. We keep trying.”
Over 300 climbers have scaled the K2 in spring and summer and none in winter. Italians Achilli Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli were the first climbers to reach its summit in the summer of 1954.




Trekkers and porters hike down the Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, on September 7, 2014. (REUTERS)

Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism Director Iqbal Hussain said three teams of climbers had been given permits for the K2 winter expedition this year.
“Two teams of climbers have kicked off their expeditions while the third team, comprising more than fifty members from over fifteen countries, will leave Skardu on December 21,” he said.
Geographically, Pakistan is considered a climbers’ paradise, rivalling Nepal for the number of peaks over 7,000 meters. Other than being home to the K2, Pakistan also has four of the world’s 14 summits higher than 8,000 meters.
Northern Pakistan’s unscarred beauty was once a major tourist attraction but the industry was destroyed by years of violence, starting in the early 2000s when militant attacks led to a decrease in the number of expeditions and wrecked communities dependent on climbing for income.




The world's second largest mountain, K2 (seen in the distance), and Broad Peak (R) in the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, on September 7, 2014 (REUTERS)

But security has improved dramatically in recent years, with militant assaults down sharply in the mainly Muslim country of 220 million people.
Hussain said the trekking business had also picked up again in recent years and the K2 winter expedition had gained momentum since 2017.
“Despite the fear of coronavirus, three international teams are vying to defeat K2 in the winter,” Hussain said. “This is a good omen for Pakistan’s tourism sector.”
Sherpa’s team, the largest one attempting the winter summit this year, plans to reach the K2 base camp by December 24. The team comprises 27 climbers from Nepal and 23 from Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Poland, Greece, Spain, Canada, Finland, USA, Chile, Italy,




The names of the porters and members of a recent K2 trekking tour are written on a glacial stone along the K2 base camp trek near Korophong in the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, on September 11, 2014 (Reuters) 

Romania and Slovenia. Climbers Imtiaz Hussain and Akbar Ali from Pakistan are also part of the expedition, which has been organized by Blue Sky Treks and Tours.
Another three-member team from Nepal, led by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, left for the K2 base camp on December 8.
A third team, of three members, John Snorri from Iceland and Pakistanis Mohammad Ali Sadpara and his son Sajid Sadpara, has already reached the advanced base camp. The group had planned to fix lines up to camps 1 and 2 but bad weather forced them to return.
“The Christmas lights are ready. Today it is sunny, -11 Celsius and it feels like a heat wave, really nice. But the weather is still harsh in the mountains, so we are waiting,” Snorri wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday, sharing pictures of a tent decorated for Christmas.
“Limber winds and most chilly weathers are the main obstacles to reach the top of K2; that’s why no one can scale K2 in the winter,” Alpine Club General Secretary Karrar Haidri said, adding that he was hopeful of success since such a large number of climbers were attempting the ascent this year.
Noel Hanna, 54, from Northern Iceland, who has summited Mount Everest nine times and many other peaks, including K2 in the summer of 2018, said this year would be his first attempt to climb the K2 in winter.
“Obviously, I will just have to see how to cope with the cold carefully and will not act stupidly by putting my life into danger,” he told Arab News. “If the weather does not cooperate, then no one can summit. But we are hopeful that we may get favor from the weather and will succeed in our mission.”
Nepal-based Arnold Coster, 44, from Netherland, said he had climbed mountain peaks above 8,000 meters 21 times in his life.
“I have no fear of scaling K2 in the winter as we have enough experience,” he told Arab News. “We have a big team with well experienced climbers and are hopeful to defeat K2 in the winter.”


Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 

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Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 

  • Islamabad High Court hears plea challenging Ishaq Dar’s appointment to deputy PM post
  • Defense counsel urges court to form larger bench to address cases of dual appointments

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Cabinet Division on Wednesday informed a Pakistani high court that the deputy prime minister’s post was an honorary one and that no “special office” had been established for it, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamir Farooq was hearing a plea filed by Sher Afzal Marwat, a leader of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Marwat had challenged Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar’s appointment to the post in April. 

Marwat’s plea filed last month said Dar was already holding the office of the federal minister for foreign affairs when the cabinet division issued a notification on April 28 with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s approval for his appointment to the post. 

It argued that the prime minister’s office was a constitutional one but the post of deputy premier was not known in Pakistan’s constitution and no other law allowed the cabinet division to issue such a notification. Dar’s appointment as deputy premier was made for “personal reasons” at the “cost of public exchequer,” the petition argued. 

“The Cabinet Division on Wednesday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the designation of deputy prime minister was an honorary post, and no special office had been established in that regard,” APP reported. 

The Defense counsel, Riaz Hanif Rahi, said Dar’s appointment as deputy prime minister was honorary and urged the court to form a larger bench to address dual appointment cases in the interest of good governance. Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing.

Dar, who is a former four-time finance minister of Pakistan, was earlier made the head of a special committee of PM Sharif’s cabinet on privatization before he was appointed deputy premier.

The 73-year-old chartered accountant is considered to be the closest ally of PM Sharif’s elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, who is also a three-time former prime minister

Political analysts at the time believed Dar’s appointment to the post was an indication that Nawaz was trying to assert his control of the government indirectly.

Before Dar, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was appointed the deputy prime minister of Pakistan in 2012.


Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025

  • Pakistan presents federal budget to strengthen case for new IMF loan agreement
  • Pakistan has projected sharp drop in fiscal deficit for new financial year at 5.9 percent of GDP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has set a challenging tax revenue target of 13 trillion rupees ($46.66 billion) for the year starting July 1, a near 40 percent jump from the current year, to strengthen the case for a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.
The ambitious revenue targets for the fiscal year through June 2025 were in line with analyst expectations.
Key objectives for the upcoming fiscal year included bringing the public debt-to-GDP ratio to sustainable levels and prioritising improvements in the balance of payments position, the government’s budget document showed.
Pakistan has projected a sharp drop in its fiscal deficit for the new financial year at 5.9 percent of GDP, from an upwardly revised estimate of 7.4 percent for the current year.
GDP would expand 2.4 percent in the current year, missing the budgeted target of 3.5 percent, the government said in its economic review on Tuesday, despite revenues being up 30 percent on the year, and the fiscal and current account deficits being under control.
Pakistan will look to widen the tax base to avoid burdening existing tax payers to meet its targets, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said while presenting the budget.
While Pakistan is expected to stick to fiscal prudence under a new IMF program, growth will stay constrained, said Abid Suleri of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute think tank.
“Many of the measures taken to achieve fiscal sustainability will impact growth negatively, at least in the near future,” he said.
Pakistan is in talks with the IMF for a loan of about $6 billion to $8 billion, as it seeks to avert a default for an economy growing at the slowest pace in the region.
But a recent economic uptick, falling inflation and an interest rate cut on Monday have stirred government optimism over the prospects for growth.
The key policy rate could fall further this year and economic growth would continue to rise, Aurangzeb had told reporters a day before presenting his first budget.


Pakistan’s T20 World Cup fate hangs in balance as India face US

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan’s T20 World Cup fate hangs in balance as India face US

  • Pakistan need US to lose their remaining two matches against India, Ireland to stay alive
  • Babar Azam’s side lost their opening two matches against India, US in this year’s World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Millions of Pakistani cricket fans will be hoping their arch-rivals India thump the United States on Wednesday when the two sides meet in New York for a T20 World Cup competition so that the green shirts stay alive in the tournament. 

Pakistan, who notched their first win of the T20 World Cup 2024 against Canada on Tuesday night in New York, need the US to lose their remaining two matches against India and Ireland. Skipper Babar Azam’s side, who lost to the US and India in their opening two matches of the World Cup, also need India to beat Canada on June 15 to stand a chance in the tournament. 

If the US wins even one more point, Pakistan’s journey in the World Cup will come to an abrupt end in the first stage. Even one match affected by rain would spell the end for Pakistan, as the US requires only one point to move to the second round.

“USA bracing up for another epic clash,” the International Cricket Council (ICC) wrote on social media platform X. It shared a picture of the American cricketers practicing before the fixture. 

Pakistan’s new white-ball coach Gary Kirsten last week bluntly said the green shirts needed to evolve if they wanted to live up to the standards of international cricket. 

“I think for me the most important thing for every international player is that you continue growing and developing as a player, and understanding what the demands of international competition are,” Kirsten said at the post-match conference after Pakistan lost to India on Sunday. 

“The game is changing pretty much every year. So, if you’re not up to it and you’re not improving, you’re going to get found out somewhere.”

Squads:

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Rishabh Pant (wk), 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Shivam Dube, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Arshdeep Singh

USA (probable): 1 Steven Taylor, 2 Monank Patel (capt & wk), 3 Andries Gous, 4 Aaron Jones, 5 Nitish Kumar, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Harmeet Singh, 8 Jasdeep Singh, 9 Nosthush Kenjige, 10 Saurabh Netravalkar, 11 Ali Khan 


Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

  • Pakistan unlikely to buy LNG cargoes until November due to oversupply, high prices
  • Countries seek more LNG cargoes due to extreme heat, driving spot prices to high levels

KARACHI: Pakistan is unlikely to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes on the spot market until at least the beginning of winter in November due to oversupply and high prices, its petroleum minister told Reuters.

Extreme temperatures across Asia have pushed countries to seek more cargoes of LNG to address higher power demand, driving spot prices to their highest since mid-December. Asia spot LNG last traded at $12.00 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Friday.

However, LNG demand in the second largest South Asian LNG buyer was “subordinate to supplies,” the minister told Reuters, despite heatwaves baking the country of 300 million people with temperatures surging to a near-record.

“The question of getting more LNG when we can’t sell the amount of LNG that we already are obtaining from our long-term contracts, it does not apply,” Musadik Masood Malik, Pakistan’s petroleum minister, told Reuters in an interview.

Annual power use in Pakistan, which gets over a third of its electricity from natural gas, is expected to fall consecutively for the first time in 16 years, due to higher tariffs curbing household consumption.

Poor and middle-class households are still feeling the impact of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout of Pakistan last year, which contributed to higher retail prices. A series of power tariff hikes over 12 months was a key part of the IMF program which ended in April.

Industrial demand has also remained tepid due to a cloudy economic outlook.

Pakistan, which last bought a spot LNG cargo in late 2023, canceled its spot LNG tender for delivery in January. Malik attributed the cancelation to oversupply, adding that there were “not a lot of customers” at current LNG spot prices.

Malik said Pakistan was keen to adopt more renewable energy to cut its import bill and exposure to geopolitical shocks. The country suffered widespread power outages due to its inability to buy expensive LNG after prices surged due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Any country that is importing $15-18 billion of fuel, how can it be sustainable when the total exports are south of $30 billion? So we have to move away from the imported elements such as LNG,” he said.

Pakistan was also trying to access less expensive natural gas by building a pipeline with Iran, but was wary of sanctions, he said.

“We basically are trying to work out the solution whereby we can have access to less expensive gas, but in a manner which does not invoke any sanctions on Pakistan. It all depends on legal interpretations,” he said.

“From our perspective, we don’t want to get into litigation and we don’t want to get sanctioned.” 


Pakistan, Muslim World League to host global conference on girls’ education in September

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan, Muslim World League to host global conference on girls’ education in September

  • Eminent scholars, education ministers from Islamic countries to attend three-day event
  • Event to explore solutions to various barriers to education millions of girls face daily 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government will join hands with the Muslim World League to host a “landmark” global conference on girls’ education in September, state-run media reported on Wednesday, to ensure girls have better access to education and other facilities. 

According to the Malala Fund, 12 million girls are out of school in Pakistan and only 13 percent of girls advance to grade IX. The international non-governmental organization says social norms such as gender stereotypes and preference for educating boys continue to prevent girls from accessing education. 

State broadcaster Radio Pakistan said the primary objective of the three-day conference is to “explore and formulate” effective strategies to enable institutional responses and ensure better resource allocation for promoting girls’ education on a global scale.

“This event aims to bring together a diverse group of international and national dignitaries, including education ministers from numerous Islamic countries, to address and find solutions to different challenges faced by girls in the education sector,” Radio Pakistan said. 

It said eminent scholars, education experts, policymakers and various other stakeholders are expected to attend the conference. They will share their expertise, experiences, and best practices in the field of girls’ education. 

“The event will serve as a crucial platform for sharing experiences, discussing the multifaceted challenges faced by girls in accessing education, and exploring innovative solutions to overcome these barriers,” Radio Pakistan explained. 

It said PM Sharif has constituted a dedicated committee to organize the event in a “befitting and efficient manner.” 

The state-run media said the committee is headed by Secretary of Education Mohyuddin Wani and includes lawmaker Nausheen Iftikhar, representatives from the foreign office, the federal directorate of education and the Capital Development Authority (CDA). 

“This event marks a significant step toward the global promotion of girls’ education, demonstrating Pakistan’s commitment to being at the forefront of this vital initiative,” Radio Pakistan said. 

“By hosting such a crucial conference, Pakistan aims to contribute substantially to the global dialogue on education and help forge a path toward a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape for girls worldwide.”