BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2007, 22:46 GMT
Ex-PM Sharif returns to Pakistan
Nawaz Sharif arrives in Lahore

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has arrived in Pakistan to a jubilant welcome after seven years in exile.

Mr Sharif, who was toppled by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 1999, arrived in Lahore from Saudi Arabia.

Thousands of police deployed for his arrival were overwhelmed by a surge of supporters at Lahore airport who carried Mr Sharif on their shoulders.

Thousands more accompanied the ousted prime minister as his motorcade inched its way through the city centre.

Mr Sharif's return comes amid a political crisis in Pakistan, which has been placed under emergency rule weeks before elections.

It is his second attempt in the past three months to end his exile. The last time, in September, he was deported within hours of his arrival.

He told cheering crowds that his return was "not the result of any deal" with Mr Musharraf, referring to reports that he had come home under an arrangement with the military ruler.

"My deal is with you, the people of Pakistan," he said.

Playing his 'role'

Mr Sharif also said that emergency conditions imposed by General Musharraf were "not conducive" to free and fair elections.

Mr Sharif surrounded by journalists and supporters

Supporters clapped and danced and waved the green flags of Mr Sharif's party. They shouted slogans such as "Long live Sharif" and "Go, Musharraf, go".

Earlier, the former prime minister told the BBC by mobile telephone from his plane that it was unlikely that he would be able to work with President Musharraf, as his ultimate objective was to rid Pakistan of military rule.

"I am here to play my role and also make my own efforts to rid the country of dictatorship," Mr Sharif said.

He said boycotting the election remained an option if emergency rule was not lifted.

"When the constitution, fundamental rights are suspended, when people live difficult lives, when judges who make decisions according to the constitution are ousted, will elections in such a situation not be a fraud?" he said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

"Should not such elections be boycotted?"

Mr Sharif left the airport on a procession through the city centre, to a shrine about 20km (12.5 miles) away.

Thousands of people lined the road from the airport, cheering and beating drums to welcome Mr Sharif. Scores of vehicles overloaded with supporters followed.

According to party loyalists, police detained many of Mr Sharif's supporters before his arrival.


On Sunday, Mr Sharif said nomination papers to contest parliamentary elections on 8 January would be filed before Monday's deadline.

"Everybody can submit his nomination papers but the final decision will be taken by the APDM (All Parties Democratic Movement)," Mr Sharif told reporters at the airport.

Opposition leaders, including Benazir Bhutto - another former prime minister who also recently returned from exile - are divided over whether to boycott the elections.

Security was tightened in Lahore ahead of Mr Sharif's return.

Two bombings killed more than 130 people at a homecoming parade in Karachi for Ms Bhutto last month.

Ahead of his return, officials from Mr Sharif's PML-N party and police said PML-N supporters had been arrested across Punjab province, although it was not clear how many.

Nawaz Sharif speaks to the BBC from his plane

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific