Olympic torch arrives in China-friendly Pakistan

Other News Materials 16 April 2008 06:53 (UTC +04:00)
Olympic torch arrives in China-friendly Pakistan

(AP) - The Olympic torch came to Pakistan early Wednesday for what the pro-China government hoped would be a festive and trouble-free leg of its world tour.

Protests against China's human rights record disrupted the torch's passage through Western cities last week, and Pakistani authorities took pains to avoid any repeat during its short stay en route to Beijing.
A jetliner bringing the torch from the Persian Gulf sultanate of Oman arrived at the military section of Islamabad airport shortly after midnight. A Chinese Olympic official carried a lantern containing the flame down the steps to Pakistani sports chiefs and the Chinese ambassador.
After briefly posing with the lantern, the officials entered the terminal. State TV said the flame would be kept at a luxury hotel overnight.
Later Wednesday, Hassan Sardar, a field hockey gold medalist in the 1984 Los Angeles games, squash star Jahangir Khan and some five dozen other Pakistani athletes were scheduled to participate in a torch relay.
They were to take turns carrying the torch during a ceremony featuring folk music and dances at the capital's biggest sports complex before a crowd expected to include President Pervez Musharraf.
Plans originally called for athletes to relay the torch along a nearly two-mile route from the white marble parliament building to Jinnah Stadium, but that was changed to just a run around the sports complex itself.
Col. Baseer Haider, an army officer helping organize the event, said the change was made because of the "overall security environment'' and the risk of bad weather. A violent hailstorm hit Islamabad on Tuesday.
The Pakistan Olympic Association urged independent broadcasters relaying state TV's coverage of the torch to avoid "negative comments'' and make "no mention'' of the conflict in Tibet.
Pakistan has strong and long-standing defense and economic links with China. Both are rivals of neighboring India. Musharraf was expected to return from a six-day official trip to China in time for the torch ceremony.
There were no indications that rights groups planned any protests like those that disrupted torch relays in Paris, London and San Francisco last week. The torch's later stops in Argentina, Tanzania and Oman went off without any trouble.
However, rioting in two Pakistani cities in the past week raised tension in a country on guard against attacks by Islamic militants based along its border with Afghanistan. Chinese workers were targeted in two deadly attacks last year.
"We have to take care that there is no infiltration by some elements who are bent on disrupting our understanding and great relationship,'' Musharraf said in China on Monday.
The flame, which began its six-continent trek from ancient Olympia in Greece on March 24, is due in New Delhi, India, on Thursday.