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Pakistani, Indian Women Achieve Historic Ascent Of Mount Everest


Mountaineer Samina Baig poses with a Pakistani flag during a previous climb.
A 22-year-old Pakistan woman has made history by becoming the first woman from her country to scale Mount Everest.

And she has done so -- in a first for regional peace -- accompanied by two young women from India.

The double record was set when Samina Baig reached Everest's summit together with Indian twins Tashi and Nungshi Mallik, who are 21, on May 19.

Baig's brother, Mirza Ali, 29, climbed the summit with them. (Read a blog written by Mirza Ali here.)

The feat has made Baig an overnight sensation in Pakistan, with her picture appearing on the front pages of all major newspapers.

The attention is providing broad exposure for the message of gender equality and peace she says she wants to send.

"Our mission was the empowerment of women through adventurous sports, and then we met the Indians and our program, or mission, became Indo-Pak gender equality 2013," Baig told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal within hours of summiting Everest, the world's highest peak. "So we want peace between both countries and we don't want the [limitations] of borders. We want peace and particularly young people want peace between the two countries."

Baig was speaking by satellite phone as the team returns from the 8,848-meter peak. The most dangerous portion of the climb -- the final, continuous 24-hour ascent and descent of the peak -- is well behind the climbers.

At the peak, Baig and the Indian twins placed the flags of their countries side-by-side -- a symbolic gesture noted widely by the media.

Pakistan's "Express Tribune" called the symbolic gesture a "message of peace."

The Indian newspaper "The Hindu" called it "a message of peace, friendship, and collaborative action."

The group ascended the mountain via the south face from the Nepalese side and reached the summit on the morning of May 19.

It is still unclear how many of the climbers elected to attempt the final stage of the climb without oxygen, the ultimate challenge that Mount Everest offers.

The "Express Tribune" reported that Baig did not use supplementary oxygen.

Baig lives in the Shimshal Valley of Pakistan's northern Hunza region, which is surrounded by several mountain peaks.

Pakistan and India have endured decades as archrivals since they each gained independence from the British Empire in 1947.

Pakistan's prime minister-designate, Nawaz Sharif, has indicated that he will seek to improve relations between Islamabad and New Delhi.

Written in Prague by Charles Recknagel based on an interview conducted by Radio Mashaal correspondent Rabia Akram in Islamabad