SOMETIMES, to move mountains you have to climb them. And that’s what an eight-member women’s team recently did to promote the cause of tourism in Pakistan and project a positive image of the country. Their expedition saw them scale three peaks, and set several records in the process. It was the first time non-professional Pakistani women had climbed the 6,035-metre Julio Sar, the first time an all-women’s team had successfully undertaken such an expedition, and the first time any amateur Pakistanis — men or women — had summited three peaks back to back. It all came about from an idea that Karachi-based documentary film-maker, Shehrbano Saiyid, had for a film about the women of the breathtaking Hunza valley, which lies in the embrace of some of the highest mountains in Pakistan. Guides at a local mountaineering school introduced her to the seven young women, all students at the institute, who undertook the arduous expedition.
The feat achieved by these enterprising women gives a much-needed shot in the arm to a nation weary of the pall of gloom engendered by terrorist attacks and multifaceted economic woes. In such a climate, stories of personal endeavour are no less than acts of resistance that speak to the indefatigable spirit of its people, not least its women. The publicity surrounding the mountaineers’ success may also help revive the tourism industry which was once the lifeblood of the Hunza valley but which has seen a steady decline over the last decade. Most importantly perhaps, the women’s accomplishment helps further an alternative discourse about this country, and the plura-listic nature of its socie-ty. This instance, for example, serves to highlight the markedly egalitarian nature of society in the Hunza valley in which families encourage their daughters to study, pursue careers — and climb mountains.