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Decoration conferred to two Pakistani pilots for the courage demonstrated in rescuing Tomaž Humar from the walls of Nanga Parbat

Ljubljana, 06/18/2007  |  press release, speech

Click to enlargeThe President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek today conferred the Golden Order for Services to Lt. Col. Rashid Ullah Beg and to Lt. Col. Khalid Amir Rana for their act of extreme self-sacrifice demonstrated in rescuing the Slovene alpinist Tomaž Humar from the rock wall of Nanga Parbat, the Himalayan eight-thousander.

On 10 August 2005, at the behest of the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, the pilots of Pakistan Armed Forces, Rashid Ullah Beg and Khalid Amir Rana, approached the south wall of 8125 m high Nanga Parbat by helicopter in order to rescue the Slovenian mountaineer Tomaž Humar, who got stuck in the south wall during his daring solitary ascent of the mountain.

Click to enlargeContinuous snowing and avalanches of snow, ice and rocks forced Tomaž to dig a hole into the ice wall at an altitude of 6350 m, which served him as an emergency bivouac.

Following the intervention by several friends – mountaineers and others in the country and abroad – supported by the efforts of the Slovenian political authorities, the most hazardous rescue operation in the history of Himalayan mountaineering was undertaken and completed successfully thanks to the professional skills, courage and experience of the Pakistani pilots.

Click to enlargeAfter ten days of bivouacking Tomaž was exhausted, and so his chances of being rescued from the wall were slim.

By a very risky manoeuvre the Pakistani pilots approached the wall at a less than one metre distance.

Surface avalanches and noise from the helicopter rendered any communication between Tomaž Humar and the Pakistani pilots impossible. After ten minutes they managed to swing the rope with a weight towards Tomaž Humar, who finally hooked to it with difficulty.

During the manoeuvre, an unfortunate complication occurred since one of the ropes remained attached to the ice wall. Thanks to the pilots, the rope has detached just on time to catapult Tomaž Humar to the level of pilot’s cabin, and luckily without accident too. In a few minutes, the three of them safely landed in the base camp at the foothills of the south wall of Nanga Parbat.

Click to enlargeThe Pakistani pilots, Rashid Ullah Beg and Khalid Amir Rana, have granted Tomaž Humar a new birthday and by their pioneer deed opened a new chapter in the history of Himalayan rescue operations.

This was the first direct rescue operation from a Himalayan wall. This was also the first instance of rope access technique being used in the Himalayas.

The rescue operation also promoted discussions in the International Association of Mountain Rescue Services (Internationale Kommission für Alpines Rettungswesen), regarding the rescue of the injured persons from mountain walls by helicopter, and the establishment of rescue teams in the Himalayas.

What had been considered impossible until 10 August 2005, was rendered possible by Rashid Ullah Beg’s and Khalid Amir Rana's deed.

Rashid Ullah Beg and Khalid Amir Rana shall receive a state decoration of the Republic of Slovenia for their extremely difficult and hazardous rescuing of the Slovenian mountaineer Tomaž Humar from the walls of Nanga Parbat on 10 August 2005.

Lt. Col. Rashid Ullah Beg thanked President Drnovšek on behalf of himself and his colleage:

"Dear Mr President, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great honour for us to be here in Slovenia today and we wish to express our thanks to you, Mr. President, and to the Slovenian people for this recognition. We are particularly touched to receive this Order for Services from you, Mr. President, who are known as a fighter for human rights. I may say, Mr. President that it was only with your assistance that we could pave the way for this almost impossible mission. You have fought for the human right of Matjaž Humar, for the human right of every person living on this world, the right to have his cry for help heard. We are deeply thankful, Mr. President, for your support during all this time. We understand this recognition also as a message to the world that Muslims are capable of conceiving suicide actions to help other people. Let me conclude with a big thanks you to you, Mr. President, and to all Slovenian people. Long live Slovenia, long live Pakistan!"

Click to enlargeThe President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr. Janez Drnovšek also addressed the audience:

"Dear friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to be able to confer this order, which is somewhat different from those I usually hand out.

We are in the presence of an action of great courage, of helping a person in great distress. It was an act of profound altruism of the two pilots, both Lieutenant Colonels of the Pakistan Armed Forces, who jeopardized their own life to save our Matjaž Humar. By so doing they proved that human solidarity knows no boundaries, that it should have no limits, and that different nationalities, distances or different religions are no excuse for erecting barriers, and that human solidarity is the essence of human nature, which pushes us to help each other in need.

I am happy to be able to congratulate you for what you have done and I am glad to say that we have placed a special tile in the mosaic of relations between Slovenia and Pakistan. I hope that this will evolve into something positive in the future."
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