NationalVolume 13 Issue # 24

And the rescues go on

Two British mountaineers were rescued by Pakistan Aviation helicopter from a remote peak after their Austrian climbing partner died as an avalanche hit him in the beginning of July.  Bruce Normand and Timothy Miller were ferried to safety by the Aviation pilots after being stranded by bad weather at more than 19,000ft. Both remained uninjured. Both were photographed standing alongside their rescuers soon after they were brought down. Photographs showed a helicopter landing on a narrow snow-covered ridge during the rescue.

Thomas Drew, Britain’s High Commissioner in Pakistan, said the mission had been “remarkable and dangerous”. He said: “Our gratitude to the Pakistan Army pilots who rescued two British climbers trapped by an avalanche on UltarSar Peak near Hunza. Our thoughts with their Austrian fellow climber who did not survive the avalanche.” DG ISPR Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, described it as a “daring mission”. The three-member expedition started in late May and was permitted to go till the first week of July. The team was being managed by Higher Ground Expeditions, a tour operating company in Hunza Valley.

The people of France and Poland praised Pakistan for helping in an operation carried out to rescue the Polish and French mountaineers on the killer mountain of Nanga Parbat in north of Pakistan in January. Elisabeth Revol, from France, and Polish national Tomek Mackiewicz were seen through binoculars by fellow climbers at the base camp, said Karim Shah, a local climber who was in contact with the base camp. “The military had two helicopters ready that moved four Polish mountaineers who were already on a summit on K-2 to Nanga Parbat for the rescue mission,”. Pakistan Army helicopters also rescued a Slovenian climber in 2005 from one of the world’s highest and most dangerous mountains where he had been trapped for four days.

In 2005, the Pakistani troops rescued a renowned Slovenian mountaineer stuck under a narrow ice ledge on one of the world’s highest peaks for six days. The crews, flying well above their helicopters’ normal operating altitudes, winched mountaineer Tomaz Humar, 36, off an icy ledge on the face of the 8,125m (26,657ft) Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest peak in the world. Two Army Lama helicopters were set off and succeeded in lowering a sling and pulling him up and away. Helicopters had tried to rescue Mr. Humar, who was stranded at 6,000 metres while attempting a solo ascent of the Himalayan mountain, every day but were thwarted by low cloud. Humar was taken to the town of Gilgit, about 155 miles north-east of Islamabad. It is believed to be one of the few successful rescues carried out at such a high altitude.

Avalanches and landslides are common at the Siachen Glacier during the winter and temperatures there can drop as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius. An estimated 8,000 troops have died on the glacier since 1984, almost all of them from avalanches, landslides, frostbite, altitude sickness or heart failure rather than combat. The Pakistan army is probably the only fully functional institution in Pakistan as it has been playing various laudable constructive roles in the development of the country. It is clearly evident from history that the Pak Army has always been at the forefront whenever the nation is hit by natural calamities and other emergencies. Be it the devastating earthquakes or the ravaging floods, in times of any natural calamity or even in man-induced disasters in Pakistan; governments have always turned to the military in order to control the situation. And, in turn, our brave forces have never ever disappointed the nation.

In an event of any disaster, the armed forces in general and the Pakistan Army in particular are employed to conduct relief and rescue operations. Like many countries, particularly developing ones, Pakistan had no proper mechanism for disaster preparedness in place, and no civilian department even bothers to dedicate its personnel to handle the disaster relief.

The largest relief operation in the country’s history was launched when many parts of Pakistan were hit by the worst natural disaster i.e. the earthquake of 8 October, 2005. This dreadful event not only exposed the fragility and weaknesses of the moribund system but also made people raise voices for the establishment of a robust and well-orchestrated system. Good governance is the key to success in better disaster management. Quality in governance must be ensured to instill confidence in the masses. There should be a separate aviation department for rescuing purposes for better management and control. We should have our own teams to provide assistance.  Our approach to Humanitarian Aid Missions should be rooted in the small team tactics and mission planning used for Special Forces. Humanitarian missions involve the airlift of relief workers, equipment, or supplies to victims of natural disasters, major accidents, civil conflicts, or political emergencies. These missions entail air evacuation from dangerous areas, aerial spraying of insecticide or fire-retardant chemicals, air rescue from shipwrecks, flooded areas, or other emergency situations.

Well-organized actions, regarding mitigation and preparedness, would help making the nation more disaster- resilient. Effective pre-disaster measures would also require less effort during response phase of disaster management. While humanitarian missions may incur small-scale benefits, these projects ought to be carefully monitored and scrutinized. Special skills and training offers a thorough knowledge of foreign languages, customs and cultures. And apart from this, the media should play its positive role so as to highlight the efforts of the Pakistan Army in order to bring stability in the country. On one side, the army is fighting a war against terrorism while on the other, it is always there whenever a need arises to contain a disaster situation.