Sharif Back in Pakistan After Exile

LAHORE, Pakistan -- Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned home Sunday after years in exile, the latest political heavyweight to join Pakistan's deepening power struggle.

The plane carrying Sharif touched down early in the evening in his home city of Lahore, where crowds of supporters were waiting to greet him.

State television showed Sharif, dressed in his trademark white shirt and a dark waistcoat, on an airport stairwell surrounded by security officials, waving to the cameras.

In a reminder that Pakistan remains under emergency rule imposed by President Pervez Musharraf, security forces had rounded up some Sharif activists and attempted to seal off the airport.

But about 1,000 of his supporters found a way through tight security around the airport to swarm into the terminal building, waving the green flag of his party and shouting slogans such as "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif" and "Go, Musharraf, go!"

Police lifted batons to drive them back -- but they had no space to swing them amid the dancing, jubilant crowds.

The plane was provided by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, where Sharif has spent most of the past eight years since Musharraf overthrew him in 1999.

Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for Sharif's party, said some 1,800 activists were detained to prevent them joining the welcome party. But officials said not more than a hundred had been rounded up, to stop them from creating trouble.