Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has arrived in Pakistan ending seven years exile in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of his supporters ignoring the presence of a huge number of policemen gave Mr. Sharif a warm welcome and carried him on their shoulders.
‘Long live Sharif’, ‘Go, Musharraf, go’, they chanted slogans as Sharif arrived at Lahore Allama Iqbal International airport on an aircraft provided by the Saudi King Abdullah. Earlier, a bullet proof Mercedes car gifted by the king was flown in to Pakistan to be used for carrying Sharif. Many more supporters lined the road from the airport, cheering and beating drums.
Mr. Sharif is due to file nomination for polls scheduled in January in which he has not yet confirmed to participate in being skeptical about the fairness of it. ``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 further adding that he mulls boycotting such elections.
Opposition leaders, including Benazir Bhutto - another former prime minister who also recently returned from exile - are divided over whether to boycott the election.
Willing or not, Sharif may be barred from standing in general elections as he had been sentenced life imprisonment on corruption charges. ``As the election law stands today, it is highly doubtful that Nawaz Sharif can contest elections,`` Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the cojuntry`s Attorney General said.
Stifling democracy in Pakistan is feared to further the rise of Islamist militants. There have been pressure from the west to lift emergency imposed on Nov 3 and the Commonwealth has suspended Pakistan`s membership.