Pakistan flag row persists despite athletes’ return

October 15th, 2010 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani By Awais Saleem
Islamabad, Oct 15 (IANS) The controversy over carrying the Pakistani flag that marred the march-past of the country’s contingent at the inaugural ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi has not died down even after the squad’s return home.

Pakistan’s weight-lifter Shuja-ud-Din Malik and chef-de-mission Muhammad Ali Shah traded fresh allegations on return from India. They accused each other of lying and trying to distort the facts regarding the flag-carrying episode.

Shuja Malik, Pakistan’s only gold-medallist in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, alleged after the inaugural ceremony that he was scheduled to lead the contingent but was denied the honour by Shah at the last moment. “He snatched the flag from me and also hurled abuses,” Shuja Malik had said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has called for a probe into the embarrassing incident at the showpiece event watched by millions on their TV screens around the world.

Pakistani channels also flashed footage of Shah pushing Shuja back as the contingent entered the stadium despite the fact that the commentators had also announced Shuja Malik’s name.

“I remained quiet for the sake of national honor,” Shuja Malik said.

Shah denied the allegations and said that “no name was officially given to the organisers and I thought it fit to lead the athletes because several other chefs de mission were also doing the same”.

The weightlifting team then threatened to pull-out of the prestigious event, but was persuaded to stay on and participate by the president of Pakistan Olympic Association, Lt.Gen. (retd) Arif Hasan. He also assured the athletes of justice on their return to the country.

The secretary of sports also went to New Delhi to speak to both Shuja and Shah as part of the inquiry ordered by Gilani. A final decision into the formal inquiry is still awaited but the controversy resurfaced as soon as the athletes landed back in Pakistan.

Shuja Malik and his coach Shaikh Rashid spoke to the media and “expressed dismay over the attitude of Shah, which caused demoralisation amongst the rest of the athletes”.

“I reserve the right to seek justice through a court of law,” Shuja Malik said.

Shah has responded to the fresh tirade by saying that “the accusations are a figment of imagination”.

“I don’t want to talk about it any more because the matter is closed from my end,” he said, adding that “it did not matter if I carried the flag or Shuja Malik did”.

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