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4,000 Sharif supporters detained

Nearly 4,000 supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were rounded up overnight as he returned to Pakistan on Sunday.

world Updated: Nov 25, 2007 22:25 IST
DPA

Nearly 4,000 supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were rounded up overnight as he returned to Pakistan on Sunday declaring his intention "to end dictatorship and restore democracy in the country".

A PML-N spokesman, Ahsan Iqbal, claimed that the authorities rounded up more than 4,000 of his party colleagues overnight in a "major crackdown" in Lahore and nearby towns.

"They are arresting all the leaders," he said, adding, "I don't know what kind of elections they want to be held."

Sharif returned home from Saudi Arabia late on Sunday after seven years of exile, receiving an exuberant welcome from his supporters.

"I have come here to end dictatorship and restore democracy in the country," he told hundreds of PML-N activists who greeted their leader inside the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore after breaking through iron and barbed wire barricades set up in a multi-tier arrangement.

"I want to strengthen the rule of law and I hope the nation will support me," he added before he embarked on a slow-moving procession through the city to the shrine of a Sufi saint.

He was riding in an armoured Land Cruiser given to him by his Saudi host King Abdullah.

Some analysts believe Sharif could unite opposition parties on one platform to launch a final and decisive political movement against the general, who has been unimpressed so far by the regular but low-scale demonstrations against his measures.

Others say his major role will be to balance the political power of his old rival, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who is demanding the president's resignation.