Pakistan welcomes daughter-in-law
Newlywed and hailed as cross-border peace ambassadors, Indian tennis star Sania Mirza and Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to a frenzied reception.
Camera bulbs flashed and fans thronged to get a glimpse of the lovebirds as they landed at Karachi airport, their first visit here after their April 12 wedding that bridged the two nations' bitter sporting and political divide.
The pair are in Pakistan for a week of celebrations -- after a tough engagement and media frenzy that saw Muslim elders called in to arrange a divorce for Malik from a wife he long-denied ever having.
Hundreds of fans gathered outside Jinnah International Airport, carrying placards reading: "Welcome to Pakistan's daughter-in-law".
"I am very happy for both of them and I hope their marriage helps build relations between the two countries," said well-wisher Faqir Khan, a waiter.
Mirza, in sunglasses, red trousers and a green tunic, grasped the hand of her new husband, who was wearing blue jeans and a green t-shirt.
The couple were welcomed by provincial sports minister Mohammad Ali Shah and other local government officials, but did not speak to reporters.
"I am both disappointed and happy," said labourer and sports fan Ijaz Ahmad. "I'm disappointed because I could not see a glimpse of them, but I wish them a happy future and I am very happy that they both got married."
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence and broke off all official contact following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
The stand-off extended to the sporting world, with a freeze on non-tournament matches between their respective national cricket teams.
Malik and Mirza's sporting marriage is unprecedented in the perennial rivalry between the South Asian nations, and some right-wing Hindu groups in India had denounced the union, accusing Mirza of betraying her country.
Twenty-eight-year-old Malik married Mirza, 23, in the Indian city of Hyderabad on April 12 after divorcing another Indian woman, Ayesha Siddiqui, who said she wed the former Pakistan cricket captain in 2002.
Siddiqui's claim, which Malik initially denied, created a huge stir before Muslim elders in Hyderabad negotiated a divorce settlement allowing the sporting pair to tie the knot, family members said.
Malik, a former Pakistan captain, is serving a one-year ban for breaches of discipline, while Mirza is recovering from a wrist injury.
Family members said the couple will later Thursday travel to Islamabad to arrange Mirza's visa. The Indian tennis star will apply for a visa to Sialkot, Malik's hometown, where a reception is planned for April 25.
Another reception will be held in the eastern city Lahore two days later, family sources said. Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is also expected to hold a reception in the couple's honour later this month.
Pakistan's minister for population and welfare Ferdous Ashiq Awan, who also attended the wedding reception in India, said the marriage has spurred diplomacy between the two nations, allowing her to meet her Indian counterpart.