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Olympic torch arrives Pak amid fears

Pakistan authorities have drastically slashed the torch's route at the last minute due to security fears.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Islamabad
UPDATED ON APR 16, 2008 11:47 AM IST

The Olympic torch, symbol of the 2008 Games in Beijing, touched down in the Pakistani capital Islamabad amid heavy security early on Wednesday on the first stop in its Asian leg of a world tour.

The flame arrived from Oman for what Pakistan's pro-China government hopes will be a peaceful relay, free of the protests by Tibet supporters and human rights activists that has marred much of its journey.

Pakistani authorities however drastically slashed the torch's route at the last minute, citing security fears sparked by an unprecedented wave of Al-Qaeda and Taliban suicide bombings in the past year.

The plane carrying the flame arrived at Chaklala military airbase outside Islamabad and was welcomed by dignitaries gathered on a red carpet, state television showed live.

"The entire event was re-scheduled due to security threats. We had to re-schedule the programme to ensure full security to the torch relay and its participants," Pakistan Olympic Association chairman Arif Hassan told AFP.

He said that "keeping in view the law and order situation which was experienced in the past one year and the blasts and explosions," Pakistani authorities had chosen the shortest of three possible routes.

Instead of being paraded down Islamabad's leafy main boulevard and other streets, it will now circulate around the Jinnah sports stadium in the capital, watched by 8,000 guests.

The ceremony will be attended by President Pervez Musharraf, who on Monday condemned the earlier pro-Tibetan protests on the tour and vowed to maintain security when the flame arrived.

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