ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif landed in Pakistan today, returning from exile to lead a campaign to topple the country’s U.S.-allied military ruler who ousted him in a military coup eight years ago.
Black-uniformed commandos entered the Pakistan International Airlines jetliner after it landed at Islamabad airport and surrounded Sharif, an Associated Press reporter on board said.
Sharif was refusing to hand over his passport to immigration officials who were also on the plane, the reporter said.
Before leaving London, Sharif warned that President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s government might try to arrest or deport him. At the last minute, he asked his brother Shahbaz Sharif to remain in Britain so that he can lead the party in case anything happens to the former prime minister.
Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema had said Sharif “would be treated according to the law” on his arrival. He declined to elaborate.
Supporters on the flight chanted “Go, Musharraf, Go!” as Sharif’s flight taxied on the runway.
Pakistan’s Geo TV network reported that the arrivals lounge of the airport had been evacuated. Other networks reported that phone jammers were in operation at the airport.
The arrival of Sharif, whose elected government was ousted by Musharraf in a 1999 coup, is likely to sharpen political tensions ahead of presidential and legislative elections.