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Pak promises top security for Olympic torch relay

By Rezaul H Laskar and Raghavendra in Islamabad/Beijing
April 14, 2008 18:58 IST
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An expected stormy run in Asia for the Beijing Olympic flame on Monday prompted Pakistan to promise security worthy of a head of state to the torch, as it made a last-minute change in the route for the relay marred by anti-China protests.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, now in Beijing, also chipped in to blast western leaders for politicising the Olympics and condemned protests against close ally China.

The Olympic torch will arrive in Islamabad early on April 16 from Muscat, and it will be taken to New Delhi later the same day.

"The security arrangements for the torch relay participants will be that of the head of the state," Sports Minister Khwaja Asif said in a statement.

Asif said the selection of Islamabad as one of the cities through which the flame will pass reflects the close and time-tested friendship between Pakistan and China.

Pakistan Olympics Association chairman Lieutenant General (retired) Syed Arif Hasan said that security personnel would run alongside the torch on the premises of a sprawling sports complex.

Hasan had earlier announced plans for the torch relay to pass along the heart of the government district in Islamabad.

"Keeping all the environments in view, we felt that this would be something that we can handle in a better way," Hasan was quoted as saying by AP about the change in route.

Musharraf, who is on a six-day visit to China, said the Pakistan government had taken all measures for the security of the Beijing Olympics torch relay.

Anti-China protesters disrupted the flame lighting ceremony in Olympia in Greece on March 24, following China's military crackdown in Tibet. The torch also had a torturous run in London, Paris and San Francisco.

The environment in Pakistan was such that not even one man would do anything against it but the measures had been taken to ensure that "some infiltration by some elements" would not succeed, Musharraf said.

Musharraf strongly condemned disruptions of the torch relay, saying politics must be kept out of sports.

He added that Pakistan considered Tibet an inalienable part of China and "any attempts by anyone to disrupt and create ill will is condemned by Pakistan".

In an interview with the state-run China Daily, Musharraf accused the west of politicising the games.

"You cannot superimpose the human rights and democracy environment of a Western country onto other countries," said the former General, who himself has been under intense pressure to restore democracy in Pakistan. "That is the error that the West makes and Western media makes. This does not work at all and this must stop."

The Pakistan president, who spoke on 'Pakistan-China Partnership for Peace, Harmony and Development', said China had transformed in 30 years from an agriculture-based economy into a knowledge-based economy.

"Never in the history has human society made so much progress in such a short time". He spoke of China's emergence as a sheet anchor of peace and progress in the world and also as a source of strength to the region and the world, particularly the third world countries.

The Olympic torch landed today in Muscat amid tight security after a stopover in Dar es Salaam, having earlier gone to San Francisco and Buenos Aires. From New Delhi, it will go to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Canberra, Nagano in Japan, Seoul, Pyongyang and Ho Chi Minh City.

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Rezaul H Laskar and Raghavendra in Islamabad/Beijing
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