LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb. 22 -- Britain's Princess Diana visited a cancer hospital founded by cricket legend Imran Khan Thursday as part of her private, two-day visit to Pakistan. The princess' visit has sparked controversy in Pakistan, where speculation has run high that Khan, a raconteur-turned-social-activist, arranged the visit to boost his political aspirations. Khan earlier issued a press releasing blasting media coverage of Diana's visit to his cancer facility in Lahore. The princess arrived in Lahore Wednesday, and was quickly taken amid tight security to Khan's residence, where the former cricket superstar lives with his wealthy British wife, Jemima Goldsmith. She traveled to Lahore on a private jet owned by Goldsmith's parents. Some media outlets claimed the princess' visit was designed to boost the image of Khan, who has said he wants to enter politics. 'There is absolutely no political aspect to her visit, and the media's attempt to create a scandal is both unfair and unwarranted,' Khan's statement said. 'The sole purpose of her visit is to show support for a worthy cause.' Diana was also scheduled to attend a party for cancer patients on Thursday before returning to Britain Friday. The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital was made possible via Khan's relentless fund-raising and tireless devotion to his mother, Shaukat Khanum, who died of cancer. Diana was invited as part of the hospital fund-raising effort; organizers hope the trip will raise the facility's profile and attract more contributions. But Pakistan's English press has linked the princess' visit with Khan's entry into politics, speculation that annoyed the former cricket star.
'Her brief sojourn in Lahore of less than 48 hours will be almost entirely taken up with visits to the hospital and hospital-related functions,' Khan's statement said. 'She has no other planned activities, private or public.' British diplomats in Pakistan say Diana's visit is private, and refused to discuss the issue further. Pakistani officials also declined to comment. Khan, his wife, his mother-in-law Annabel Goldsmith and Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger attended an Eid party Thursday night to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Islam's month of ritual fasting. The Urdu language press was more salacious than the English press. A report in the leading Urdu newspaper claimed Diana's visit was a ploy to allow her to see her lover, Hasnaat Ahmad, a British physician of Pakistani origin who allegedly invited Diana to visit his family on Eid. The report said Khan's invitation was a cover to allow Diana and Ahmad to meet. Khan's close friends say such reports outraged the cricket legend, but he chose not tocomment directly, instead blasting the media for what he called irresponsible reporting. But political observers expressed surprise at the way the state- controlled media downplayed the visit. The official Pakistan television showed the princess arriving in Lahore, saying she was on a private visit. No mention was made of the fact that she had been invited by Khan, the cricket hero who led Pakistan to its first Cricket World Cup victory in 1992. Such coverage is indicative of the anxiety Khan's decision to enter politics has created among the ruling party, analysts say. Pakistani politics, directed more by force of personality than by political platforms, offer the charismatic sportsman a wide-open playing field, they say. His political inexperience might actually be seen as a strength with voters, because he hasn't been charged with corruption -- unlike many of the nation's politicians.