RIO: In a drastic change of plans on the eve of the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) on Thursday nominated shooter Ghulam Mustafa Bashir, also known as GM Bashir, to bear Pakistan's flag despite having named Judoka Shah Hussain for the task earlier.
Well-placed sources told DawnNews that there were differences between the PSB and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) over who would be Pakistan's flag bearer.
The PSB had earlier nominated Judoka Shah Hussain but a statement by chief-de-mission Shaukat Javed on Thursday revealed GM Bashir will bear the country's flag.
Such a last-minute change of plans, however, is not unprecedented, as Pakistan as always seen a controversy over who will bear the flag.
In the 2010 Commonwealth games in India, POA had named Shujauddin Malik, the country's gold medal winning weightlifter at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, to lead the Pakistan contingent during the ceremony.
However, Dr. Muhammad Ali Shah, the country's chef-de-mission at the event, led the detail with the flag in his hand after pushing aside the weightlifter — which was caught on camera.
‘Please allow my son to carry the flag'
Pakistan's former Olympian and gold medalist Hussain Shah expressed disappointment after his son was replaced by GM Bashir as country's flag bearer.
Talking to DawnNews from Japan, Shah said: "I never changed my nationality because I wanted my children to represent Pakistan. Please allow my son to carry the flag."
Shah remained optimistic that his son will win a medal for Pakistan.
The development comes in the wake of Pakistan's controversial decision to send a 24-member contingent when only seven athletes had qualified for the event.
“Pakistan contingent will include seven athletes and 17 officials,” a POA official told APP earlier in August.
With the national hockey side failing to qualify, this is the smallest ever Pakistani contingent for Olympics in history, one fewer than the contingent sent by tiny Atlantic island Bermuda.
GM Bashir, Shah Hussain, and female shooter Minal are the only three athletes that qualified for the event. The other four athletes from Pakistan qualified on wild cards.
With additional reporting by Abdul Ghaffar.