Mountaineer Mirza Ali wore his white “I love Pakistan” T-shirt at each of the 55 airports he passed through while helping his sister during her successful ascent of the highest peaks on each of the world’s seven continents. Addressing a ceremony celebrating the successful completion of the Adventure Diplomacy Expedition, Ali, 30, and his sister Samina Baig made an appeal to the government to launch a special fund for adventure sports in Pakistan.
Having made headlines for being the first woman of Pakistani or Muslim birth to summit Mount Everest in May 2013, Baig’s enthusiasm and courage inspired many across the world.
She can’t reach the dais, but she can reach the highest peaks of the world, Mirza Ali quipped, referring to his slight sister.
The 22-year-old said, “I’m from a village with no telephone or electricity. We need to walk for three days to reach the nearest town with such facilities.”
“What was close to us was a school that taught me all that I know,” she said with a smile.
About the eight months of travelling and climbing, she said, “I used to listen to Ali’s stories. He has been climbing mountains for the last 12 years as a guide, expedition leader and trainer in the Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindukush ranges. That inspired me to reach the highest peaks.”
Ali accompanied her on her trek to Everest, but chose to stay behind while she went to the summit alone, thus making a statement about women’s empowerment.
That success encouraged them to reach greater heights and become a part of the ‘Seven Summits in Seven Continents’ mission.
They spend eight months in grand mountains including Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Indonesia’s Carstensz Pyramid, Mount McKinley in the US, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, before ending with Russia’s Mount Elbrus on July 24.
The Serena Group, in collaboration with The Adventure Diplomacy Group (ADG), consisting of the Embassies of the Russian Federation, Argentina, Nepal, the US, Argentina and Indonesia supported the mission. The Ambassadors of these countries were all present at the event and lauded the siblings’ efforts.
“These siblings have shown us that one can achieve anything that they want,” said Argentine Ambassador Rodolfo Martin Saravia.
“Samina Baig and Mirza Ali are the stars of the evening and role models for the world,” said US Ambassador Richard Olson.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ali said that it him seven years to work and save money and seek assistance from international donors to climb Mount Everest. “It would be great for the government to set up a special adventure fund to support sports in the country.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sartaj Aziz, special advisor to the prime minister on foreign affairs and national security, said that recent killings of mountaineers had created “problems” regarding tourism in the north of the country. He said such stories set examples and bring countries together. “It is an inspiriting initiative and the government will support the area with necessary security and resources if required”
Serena Hotels Chief Executive Aziz Boolani said that a year ago, this desire of mountaineers was made into a reality with the support of the Adventure Diplomacy Group and the embassies. He said while the duos were icons for Pakistan the purpose was not just the expedition but a message of youth and gender equality.
The siblings are natives of Shimshal valley in upper Hunza, near the Chinese border. Pictures of the expedition taken by Mirza Ali were exhibited at the event, with sales revenue to go towards assisting IDPS from North Waziristan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2014.