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Former Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif Returns from Exile

  • VOA News

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Lahore Sunday after seven years exile in Saudi Arabia -- the latest Pakistani opposition figure to return to the country before elections in January.

Despite a security cordon around the Lahore airport, supporters managed to get inside to greet Mr. Sharif. He said conditions in Pakistan, which is under a state of emergency, are not conducive for elections. He demanded democracy be restored and Pakistan's deposed Supreme Court justices be reinstated.

Mr. Sharif then took a bullet-proof car to a shrine in the city center.

Opposition members say police earlier rounded up thousands of Sharif supporters and set up barricades throughout Lahore to prevent a massive homecoming rally.

Government officials say Mr. Sharif will be allowed to remain in Pakistan. That decision follows meetings last week in Saudi Arabia between Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and Saudi King Abdullah.

Mr. Sharif's party is part of an opposition coalition considering a boycott of general elections in January if General Musharraf does not end emergency rule.

General Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif in a 1999 coup. Mr. Sharif was sentenced to life in prison, but General Musharraf allowed him to go into exile under a deal in which Mr. Sharif promised to stay out of Pakistan for 10 years.

Mr. Sharif tried to return to Pakistan in September but was deported within hours.

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