Historic K2 team make it back safely to base camp

This handout photo taken on January 16, 2021 and released by Seven Summit Treks, shows mountaineers and Sherpas posing for pictures after reaching the summit of Mt K2, which is the second highest mountain in the world, at the Base Camp of the winter expedition in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan. (Seven Summit Treks via AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2021

Historic K2 team make it back safely to base camp

  • K2’s descent can be just as dangerous as going up
  • The triumphant team of Nepali climbers made history when they became the first to summit Pakistan's K2 in winter

ISLAMABAD: The triumphant team of Nepali climbers who made history when they became the first to summit Pakistan's K2 in winter arrived safely back at base camp on Sunday, officials said.

The 10 climbers reached the top of the world's second-highest mountain on Saturday, the last peak above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) to be conquered in wintertime.

"All the 10 Nepali climbers arrived in the base camp this afternoon. They are in good health and relaxing," Faizullah Firaq, a spokesperson for the Gilgit Baltistan government, told AFP.

One of the successful climbers, Nirmal Purja, who is also known as Nimsdai, posted on social media: "The full team are now back... All safe and sound... It has been an overwhelming journey."

Thaneshwor Guragain from Seven Summit Treks, a leading mountaineering company behind one of the expeditions, said more climbers are still hoping to reach the top.

Unlike Mount Everest, which has been topped by thousands of climbers young and old, K2 is a much lonelier place. But this winter, dozens of adventurers converged on the mountain hoping to take the record.

K2 is known as the "Savage Mountain" because of its punishing conditions: winds can blow at more than 200 kilometers per hour (125 miles per hour), and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

The descent can be just as dangerous as going up.

Saturday's successful summit was overshadowed by the death of a Spanish climber from another team, Sergi Mingote, lower down the perilous peak.

His body was evacuated from base camp on Sunday to nearby Skardu city by an army helicopter, the Alpine Club of Pakistan's Karrar Haidri told AFP.

Mingote was at an intermediate camp and fell on his way down to the base camp, injuring his leg, according to his team.

Purja said his team were "deeply saddened to hear that we have lost a friend" and added, "Rest in peace my brother!"

The 10 Nepali climbers had been spread across different expeditions at the start, but formed a new group in order to claim the summit in Nepal's name, singing the national anthem as they reached the top.

Despite being famed for their climbing expertise, there has never before been a Nepali climber on the first winter ascent of a peak higher than 8,000 meters.


Babar Azam’s incredible rise from tape-ball cricket to the top of the world 

Updated 18 min 45 sec ago

Babar Azam’s incredible rise from tape-ball cricket to the top of the world 

  • Pakistan captain Azam has ended Virat Kohli’s 1,258-day reign at top of MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings
  • Becomes only the fourth batsman from Pakistan to attain number one position in the latest weekly update

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Babar Azam has ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain number one position in the rankings, the International Cricket Council said on Wednesday.
From playing on the streets of Lahore to the top of the world, Azam has officially climbed a peak unreached by any Pakistani since Mohammad Yousuf.
Azam has attained a career high 865 points following a momentous series against South Africa, whom his side defeated 2-1 to grab 20 World Cup Super League points. He now leads Indian captain Kohli by eight points. 
“The Pakistan captain has overtaken Virat Kohli to become the No.1 batsman in the latest @MRFWorldwide ICC men’s ODI rankings,” the ICC said on Twitter. 

“Babar, a star of the ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cups in 2010 and 2012 and who has been playing ODIs since 2015, had started the series against South Africa at 837 rating points but moved up to 858 (ahead of Kohli) after his score of 103 in the first match. He dropped to 852 by the time of the last weekly rankings update with a score of 32 in the second ODI,” ICC said on its website. 
“By ending Kohli’s 1,258-day supremacy, Babar has emulated compatriots Zaheer Abbas (1983-84), Javed Miandad (1988-89), and Mohammad Yousuf (2003) as the number one ODI batsman. In Tests, Babar has attained a best of fifth position and is currently ranked sixth while in T20Is he is third but has been number one in the past.”
Responding to his new achievement, Azam said he felt “privileged and honored” to have joined the company of the shining stars of Pakistani cricket like Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Mohammad Yousuf.
“This is another milestone in my career, which will now require even more hard work and absolute consistency with the bat in order for me to hold on to the ranking for an extended period of time, like Sir Vivian Richards from January 1984 to October 1988 and Virat Kohli for 1,258 days,” Azam said. 
“I have also previously topped the T20I rankings, but the ultimate ambition and goal is to lead the Test rankings, which are the real testament and reward to a batsman’s calibre, reputation and skills. I understand to achieve this objective, I will not only have to perform consistently, but more importantly, against the top sides.
“I am looking forward to this challenge and remain confident I will be able to accomplish this target with the support of my team-mates and coaching staff. But at this stage, I will savour the moment as it has come almost 18 months after I was first appointed the white-ball captain and that too at the back of my performances that helped Pakistan become the first Asian side to win two ODI series in South Africa,” Azam said.
By 12, Azam was playing serious tape-ball cricket and at age 14 he had his first meaningful taste of failure in the sport as he was rejected from the national academy. It was only a setback, the ICC said, as a year later he would gain entry and be declared the country’s best Under-15 batsman.
By age 15 he had made his List A debut and by 16 he was a first-class cricketer for ZTBL. By the time he received his first ODI cap he already had six centuries and more than 2,000 List A runs at an average of 47.88 to his name.
“Nowadays, Azam’s place among ODI cricket’s finest players is unquestionable. An average of 56.83 and 13 centuries across just 80 matches will do that sort of thing,” the ICC said.
By September 2018 Azam passed 2,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in just 45 innings. Only one player has ever gotten there quicker and that is South African great Hashim Amla. Amla took just 40 innings.
In the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Azam made history, scoring 474 runs at 67.61 to break Javed Miandad’s 1992 record for the most runs by a Pakistan batsman in a Cricket World Cup campaign.
“Still only 26 years old, Azam’s best years are still ahead of him,” the ICC said. “Given he boasts the third greatest ODI average (56.83) in history right now, that is a scary thought for opposition teams all around the world.”


Pakistan says will manufacture single-dose coronavirus vaccine with Chinese assistance

Updated 21 min 44 sec ago

Pakistan says will manufacture single-dose coronavirus vaccine with Chinese assistance

  • DG of National Institute of Health says Islamabad has requested China to transfer CanSinoBio vaccine technology to Pakistan
  • Raw material for vaccine production expected to arrive this month, NIH has procured all necessary equipment and chemicals, DG NIH says 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to make its own single-dose coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with China, local media reported on Wednesday, quoting the Director General of the National Institute of Health.
Pakistan is currently offering free vaccines to frontline health care workers and people over the age of 50, but the drive has thus far been slow, and last month the country allowed commercial imports by the private sector for the general public.
The first round saw the commercial sale of the two-shot Russian Sputnik V to the general public for about 12,000 Pakistani rupees ($80) for a pack of two doses.
According to Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, the DG of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Major General Aamer Ikram, told the media after briefing a National Assembly standing committee that the country had requested China to transfer CanSinoBio coronavirus vaccine technology to Pakistan, and raw material was expected to arrive this month.
“We hope that we will be able to take some measures for preparation of the vaccine by the end of April,” he was quoted as saying. “The NIH has procured all the equipment and chemicals needed in this regard.”
Ikram said a Pakistani team was ready to undertake the task under the supervision of a Chinese team that was already in Pakistan. 
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s planning minister said 1.3 million people had so far been vaccinated in the nation of 220 million. 


Pakistan to open Munich consulate to expand economic cooperation with Germany

Updated 14 April 2021

Pakistan to open Munich consulate to expand economic cooperation with Germany

  • Announcement made by foreign minister during two-day official visit to Berlin
  • Qureshi says Pakistan to explore cooperation with Germany in IT, solar energy, electric vehicles

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has announced that Islamabad would open a consulate in Munich, Germany, to tap into the economic potential of cooperation between the two countries.
Qureshi’s visit comes as Pakistan moves to lay the foundations of a structured dialogue with a key European country with whom Islamabad has never had a meaningful relationship. 
“For greater economic collaboration between Pakistan and Germany, & in cognizance of growing needs of diaspora, I am happy to announce that Pakistan will be establishing a new Consulate in Munich,” Qureshi said on Twitter. 


“The foreign minister said a Consul General would be appointed at the Munich mission to supplement the diplomatic efforts of embassy in Berlin,” state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported. “He said Pakistan was committed to work out the Strategic Engagement Plan of Europe. He said Pakistan could explore cooperation with Germany particularly in areas of information technology, solar energy and electric vehicles.”
Qureshi said he was satisfied that around 5,000 Pakistani students were currently studying at various educational institutes in Germany, while “efforts would be made to expand the scope of cooperation in education sector by engaging Higher Education Commission so that Germany could become a top destination for Pakistani students.”
In a meeting with a delegation of the Pakistani diaspora in Germany, Qureshi said the government was making serious efforts to give the right to vote to Pakistanis living abroad.
“He said the option of electronic voting was under consideration to facilitate the expatriates,” APP reported. “FM Qureshi acknowledged the services of the Pakistani community, terming it an important linkage for strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.”


Pakistan says will ensure writ ‘at any cost’ as religious party’s protests escalate

Updated 24 min 26 sec ago

Pakistan says will ensure writ ‘at any cost’ as religious party’s protests escalate

  • Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan is holding protests since Monday when it’s chief was arrested for threatening government over French cartoons
  • Protesters beat a policeman to death in Lahore, TLP says at least seven supporters dead and dozens injured in clashes with law enforcement

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan’s interior minister on Wednesday said the government would ensure “the writ of the state at any cost” after nationwide protests by a religious party entered the third day and one policeman was beaten to death and dozens of policemen and protesters were injured in towns across the nation.
Demonstrations erupted in major Pakistani cities and quickly turned violent after Saad Rizvi, the head of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) religious party, was arrested on Monday. 
The government has already given a go-ahead for paramilitary troops to be deployed in major urban centers to quell protests. 
“The writ of the state must be ensured at any cost,” Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted as telling law enforcement agencies while chairing a meeting to review the violence. 
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, the secretary interior and other top government officials, including the police chiefs of Punjab and Islamabad, were present at the meeting. 
“Strict action will be taken against those taking law into their own hands,” the interior minister warned. 
The participants of the meeting also paid tribute to the policemen who had laid down their lives in the line of duty. 
On Sunday, Rizvi had threatened the government with protests if it did not expel France’s envoy to Islamabad over blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Rizvi has called on the government to honor what he said was a commitment made to his party in February to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication in France of depictions of the Prophet (pbuh), which has enraged Muslims around the world. 
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan says it had only committed to debating the matter in parliament. 
“Troops of Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) are required with immediate effect till the request of de-requisition,” the government of Punjab said in a notification. 
Rangers would be deployed in the cities of Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikhupura, Chakwal and Gujranwala, the circular said. 
In a press conference on Tuesday evening, science and technology minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said “no group or party must even think of dictating the government or the state … If a state allows this, then it will disintegrate and there will be chaos.” 
He added: “Every group has a right of protest and we are ready to hold talks [with TLP] if they present their demands in a democratic way.” 
In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, TLP told the government: “You will have to expel the French ambassador under all costs … The country will remain jammed until the French ambassador is expelled.” 
In a separate statement, TLP said its protests would go on until Rizvi was released. 

ARMED PROTESTERS 
Lahore police spokesperson Rana Arif told the daily Dawn newspaper protesters had beaten a police constable to death in Lahore’s Shahdara area on Tuesday, as a result of which a police case had been registered against TLP leaders and supporters. Police have also registered a case against Rizvi on terrorism and other charges, Arif said. 
“Over 300 policemen in Punjab, including 97 in Lahore, had sustained injuries, many of them seriously, after violent protesters attacked them with clubs, bricks and firearms,” Dawn reported. “The Gujrat district police officer and Kharian Deputy superintendent of police were among the injured.” 
“Hundreds of protesters and policemen were injured and thousands of TLP activists and supporters were arrested and booked for attacking law enforcement personnel and blocking main roads and highways,” Dawn added, saying four people, including a policeman, had been killed. 
Police said four policemen had been shot by armed TLP protesters, and the use of firearms by demonstrators had taken law enforcement agencies by surprise. 
“In Lahore alone, four policemen were shot at and injured by the armed men of the TLP in the Shahpur Kanjran area. Similarly, two police constables were shot at and injured in Faisalabad,” Dawn reported, adding: 
“Two video clips from Lahore in this regard showed policemen, Imran and Aslam, being rushed to a hospital with bullet wounds. In another video clip, an on-duty policeman was seen calling for help to dispatch more force, saying they had come under armed attack by the protesters in Shahpur Kanjran.” 
“The TLP armed men opened straight fire on the police and our four constables were injured,” Lahore DIG (operations) Sajid Kiani told reporters on Tuesday evening. 
Under a standing order, he said, police had been deployed unarmed and allowed only to use anti-riot gear against protesters. “But it shocked us that the TLP men used guns against the anti-riot force,” Kiani said. 
Giving one example, Kiani said when police reached Shahpur Kanjran to clear the national highway, announcements were made in nearby mosques urging TLP followers to take on police. 
“Within 10 minutes, some 200 people joined those already present and attacked police,” he said, adding that Lahore police had lodged 19 cases against protesters and cleared the areas of Shahdara, Imamia Colony, Thokar Niaz Baig, Babu Sabu and some parts of Ring Road by Tuesday evening. 
Police also conducted an operation in the Chungi Amar Sidhu area to rescue Model Town SP (operations) Dost Mohammad Khosa and five other policemen from protesters holding them hostage at a power grid station. 
The Shahdra and Thokhar areas of Lahore also turned into battlefields after hundreds of TLP supporters took several policemen hostage. 
In Shahdara, a constable died due to severe head and chest injuries after protesters tortured him with clubs, police said. 
Police said TLP activists had occupied and blocked 22 main roads, intersections and areas of Lahore, while reports of violence had also come from Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Rahim Yar Khan, Sahiwal and Gujrat. 
Reports from other parts of Punjab suggested TLP supporters had occupied over 100 points, roads and major intersections of various cities of the province. 
Over 1,400 activists of the TLP have been arrested across Punjab, Punjab police spokesperson told Dawn, saying Punjab police had launched major operations, cleared nearly 60 roads and areas, and registered multiple police cases against supporters, representatives and leaders of the TLP. 
Speaking to Arab News, Muhammad Ali, a spokesperson of the TLP in Karachi, said at least six workers of the party had died and a large number were wounded due to firing by law enforcement agencies. Hospital and rescue sources only confirmed two deaths. 
In a statement released on Tuesday, TLP said seven of its supporters had been killed in police firing, but the figures could not be independently verified. 
HISTORY OF PROTESTS 
Saad Rizvi became the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party in November after the sudden death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi. 
Tehreek-e-Labiak and other religious parties denounced French President Emmanuel Macron since October last year, saying he tried to defend caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as freedom of expression. 
Macron’s comments came after a young Muslim beheaded a French school teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in class. The images had been republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack against the publication for the original caricatures. That enraged many Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere who believe those depictions are blasphemous. 
Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 federal elections, campaigning to defend the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. It also has a history of staging protests and sit-ins to pressure the government to accept its demands. 
In November 2017, Rizvi’s followers staged a 21-day protest and sit-in after a reference to the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was removed from the text of a government form. 


Pakistan’s real murder mystery: No murders in northern Ghanche district in 15 years

Updated 14 April 2021

Pakistan’s real murder mystery: No murders in northern Ghanche district in 15 years

  • Ghanche, a top tourist destination in Gilgit-Baltistan, borders China’s Xinjiang province and the Indian-administered region of Ladakh
  • Police says no serious crimes like robberies or murders have been reported in the district in the last decade

KHAPLU: A Pakistani northern mountainous district that draws tens of thousands of local and international tourists every year may well be one of the country’s safest places, according to locals and police officials.
Bordering China’s Xinjiang province and the Indian-administered region of Ladakh, Ghanche, known for its picturesque landscapes, is surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in the world. The area has also not recorded any armed robberies or other serious crimes in the last decade, a top police official said, with only one murder reported about 15 years ago.
The Pakistan Army’s brigade headquarters is located at Goma in Ghanche district. The army’s Gayari Sector Battalion Headquarters is 20 miles (32 km) west of Siachen Glacier.
“Ghanche is a very peaceful region of Gilgit-Baltistan since the crime rate here is quite negligible,” the area’s superintendent of police Jan Muhammad told Arab News. “We haven’t witnessed serious crimes like murders or armed robberies here for years.”
Muhammad said the people of the district were hospitable and peaceful, and he had never received any complaints from locals or tourists that their valuables or personal belongings had been stolen.

A young resident of Ghanche district dances at Khaplu View Point, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on April 11, 2021. (AN Photo)

“This district is one of the safest places in northern Pakistan,” Muhammad said.
Police records show only 34 complaints of “an ordinary nature” registered across the district in 2020. This year, police in Ghanche received only three “minor complaints.”
And despite travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Ghanche continues to host foreign and local tourists, mainly due to its reputation for safety.

Tourists pose for a group photograph in front of Khaplu Fort in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Ghanche district, Pakistan, on April 11, 2021. (AN Photo)

“People prefer to travel to secure places and Ghanche is the best place to visit due to its idyllic surroundings and peaceful environment,” said Muhammad Zanique, a tourist from Lahore. “This is my second trip to the place, and I recommend everyone to visit this area.”
Muhammad Nasim Rashpori, a hotel owner in Ghanche, said people usually left their houses and vehicles unlocked since there was “no concept” of theft in the district.
“Sometimes we find cell phones and wallets of tourists which they mistakenly leave behind in their rooms,” Rashpori said. “We do our best to trace the owners and return them these items.”