Thursday, February 15, 2018

Pakistani Officials Weigh in on Nanga Parbat Rescue Controversy

The rescue operation that took place on Nanga Parbat a few weeks back continues to be a source of frustration and controversy. While climbers from K2 were able to rescue Elisabeth Revol, they weren't able to climb higher to save Tomek Mackiewicz, which has created a contentious environment to say the least. Revol has expressed her anger over how slowly the operation came together, saying more than once that Tomek could have been saved had search and rescue teams responded more expediently. She has even said the company operating the helicopter raised the price of the flight in an effort to make more money off of the situation. While that remains under investigation, Pakistani officials have responded to criticism not just from Revol but the media as well, providing some insights into their side of the story.

In a post made to the Pakistan Mountain News page on Facebook officials made four points that they thought were important enough to share. Those points were as follows:
1. First, Pakistan is a developing economy and ‘Tourism’ sector receives much less attention. Despite, it has world’s best wonders. Neither there are institutions for high-demanding-skills rescue operation on mountain nor has it modern resource and equipment.
2. Second, these mountaineers go on Nanga Parbat at very economical package. Such economical packages do not cover many essentials. It is only their bravery and audacity that make them to summit in the winter.
3. Third, Askari Aviation does not have high-tech helicopters that can hover around in inclement weather condition. As it was coordinated rescue operation, nobody could help Tomek and Elisabeth in private capacity.
4. Lastly, Poland or French official authorities did not contact State of Pakistan officially after this rescue. However, Eisabeth was given utmost care and attention. The Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan enquired after her in hospital. She did not utter a word.
While some will probably look at this list and see a set of excuses, these are all very important things to keep in mind. Pakistan is indeed a developing country that doesn't have the resources of some other nations when it comes fountaining these kinds of operations. It is also true that Tomek and Elisabeth's expedition was a low-budget affair, leaving little room for error and not much in the way of a safety net if things went wrong. Unfortunately, things went very wrong, and they also didn't have the resources for a rescue.

Askari Aviation is the company that has received a lot of venom for not reacting quicker and potentially trying to bilk more money out of the operation. But it is also probably true that they don't have very sophisticated helicopter designed for use in the high mountains.

In other words, there are always multiple sides to a story and it is clear that we understand all of the variables at play. Clearly this is a complicated situation with a lot to think about. Sadly, Tomek lost his life, and because of that this will likely be a divisive topic for a long time to come.

Thanks to Alan Arnette for sharing this story.

1 comment:

Sakti said...

It seems full of hubris to do expeditions like this and still expect to be rescued when things go wrong.