By: Anil Datta
Karachi: Shehrbano Saiyid, an enterprising Karachi-based young woman, independent documentary filmmaker and journalist, created history recently by organising and leading an eight-member women’s team which conquered three peaks in the Karrakoram range in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Designated the Pakistan Women’s Expedition (PWE), the team climbed the Julio Sar (6035 metres), a virgin peak which had not, to date, been conquered by a non-professional Pakistani climber, and the third summit, Quz Sar, was the first all-women’s unassisted climb where the women handled all the logistics. The other peak conquered by the team was Manglik Sar. Two of the peaks had an altitude of 6,000 metres (a little over 20,000 feet) and Quz Sar was 5,950 metres high.
Sheherbano Saiyid, addressing a Press Conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) Wednesday afternoon, along with the other seven members of the team, described her ascent to the summits and said that all the credit for her successful climb went to these young women who accompanied her and helped her to the peaks.
Saiyid said that these young ladies and other climbers deserved to be rewarded by the government for the credit they had brought Pakistan, which demonstrated more than amply to the world that Pakistan had its own positive aspects and that the impression generated the world over about the suppression and isolation of Pakistani women, and societal violence was erroneous. “These ladies have done Pakistan proud and must be rewarded”, she said.
In this context, she cited the case of a male climber who was the first and only Pakistani to climb the 26,000 feet-plus Himalayan peak, the Nanga Parbat , but, Sheherbano said, he was today living in a Godforsaken, secluded place, totally unrecognized, a remote corner of the area which lacked electricity and other facilities of modern living.
Other members of the climbers’ team, all from the Shimshal valley, also addressed the Press conference. They included Hamida Bibi, Hafiza Bano, Nadeema Sahar, Shakila Numa, Takhtbika, Meher Jabeen, and Naghma, all in the 18-25 age bracket. All the three peaks were tackled between the 25th of September and the 12th of October, 2012.
Sajjad Mehdi, an expert mountaineer from the area talking about the complexion of the society and the value pattern of the area, said that their society was a wee bit different from Pakistani society in other parts of the country in that men and women worked shoulder-to-shoulder in almost all fields of human endeavour and gender mattered little.
He said that it was a source of pride that women from our region had conquered these peaks which was a source of pride for Pakistan. He said all these ladies had been trained at the Shimshal Mountaineering School, an institution set up by a team of professional mountain guides and high altitude porters from Shimshal. Talking about tourism in the area, Mehdi said that it had visibly witnessed a decline after 9/11.
Saiyid said that the objective of her project was to give recognition to the unparalleled feat of these Shimshal women and the way they had done their country proud.
The project aimed at promoting the cause of women in sports, assert their independence, and their right to pursue their goals and ambitions in life, besides also promoting (rather resuscitating) tourism in Pakistan, Saiyid said.
The Press Conference also featured a movie of the climb with Saiyid negotiating her way to the top on a thick sheet of ice, tethered to a rope around the waste, an awesome scene, with the shadow of the clouds wafting below the peaks being cast on the picturesque, verdant valley below, surely a feat of impeccable photography. It would be hard to believe without watching the movie that an otherwise such a daintily built young lady like Saiyid could perform a feat of such physical endurance.