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Terrorism in Pakistan: Tragedy with Many Losses

Posted on: June 25th, 2013 by The AAC

By Phil Powers, AAC Executive Director

This week a climber died in the Tetons and Taliban militants killed 10 climbers at Nanga Parbat’s base camp. The difference is not that the 10 were on one of the most dangerous mountains in the world. It is that they were not climbing at all.

We don’t know exactly what happened to Gary Miller as he descended from a successful ascent of the Grand Teton. But we do know that the international team on Nanga Parbat had prepared for an entirely different set of risks than the one that killed them. Late Saturday night gunmen, disguised as local patrollers, entered their base camp and proceeded to beat and kill those who failed to escape. Ten climbers are dead, casualties in a strange war of ideology they had nothing to do with.

I spent six summers in Pakistan during the late 1980s and early ‘90s. I tested myself against some of the world’s great mountains; experienced success and failure; and deepened my friendship with climbing partners who remain my closest friends today. I also came to know, rely on, and care for the people of northern Pakistan. They worked to get me to base camps in mountains. They came to my aid when trips went bad.

I was never fond of the time I spent in the cities of Pakistan. Undertones of anti-Americanism and the legacy of large and unwieldy bureaucracy without the benefit of computerization made time in Karachi or Islamabad a nightmare. But north of Gilgit or Skardu, Pakistan was a more human place, and the people I met there became my friends. I respect them and care for them, and I know the converse is true.

My deepest expressions of sadness go out to the families of the climbers who were so ruthlessly murdered at the foot of Nanga Parbat. They may have been, at least to some degree, aware that their fathers, brothers and sons were headed into perilous terrain. They could never have been prepared for this senseless act.

And there is another tragedy I cannot ignore. The only inflow of money to Pakistan’s northern areas is from tourism—tourism based on either viewing, hiking through, or climbing some of the world’s most beautiful and challenging peaks. That economic engine is in great peril, if not gone. Pakistan has allowed itself to become a lawless place to avoid. I am sorry for my friends in the north.

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