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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2,000 Held in Pakistan Crackdown

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani authorities tightened security at Islamabad's airport and detained more than 2,000 supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his party said Sunday, the eve of his planned return.

Sharif, ousted by president and army chief General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, said he was determined to fly home from London on Monday to try to end Musharraf's rule, despite an appeal from a Saudi official for him to stay away for the sake of stability.

Sharif's return is a serious challenge for Musharraf, who has lost much support since trying to dismiss the country's top judge in March. It comes as Musharraf is trying to secure another term in a presidential election by the national and provincial assemblies between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. A general election is due around the end of the year.

Sharif's spokesman, Ahsan Iqbal, said authorities had detained more than 2,000 activists from Sharif's party in Punjab province, Sharif's political base.

"The way the government has acted has proven our point that there is no democracy under Musharraf, there is dictatorship in the country," Iqbal said. "Politically, they are very scared of a big show of popularity upon his arrival."

A provincial police official said 250 "troublemakers" had been picked up.

Before his departure for home, Sharif said in London, "My security is in the hands of God and, of course, the people of Pakistan."