Celebrations among supporters of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto reached a fever pitch in this Pakistani port city which has virtually been turned into a fortress ahead of her homecoming on Thursday after eight years in self-exile.
Bhutto, who is scheduled to fly into Jinnah International Airport on Thursday afternoon, told reporters before her departure from Dubai that she expected 10 lakh people to be waiting to greet her in Karachi.
"They have come because they want a change, they don't want unemployment, oppression and despair. I am embarking on a journey of change my life is pledged to Pakistan and its people," she said in a brief statement read out in the airport in Dubai.
"I am a leader of the poor. I will live and die with the poor," she said. In the face of threats of suicide bombings by pro-Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, authorities here have thrown a massive security blanket over the airport and the route to be taken by 54-year-old Bhutto to Mazar-e-Quaid, the mausoleum of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Several thousand flag-waving supporters chanting "Benazir welcome" gathered outside airport by the early morning. Some 20,000 airport security personnel, policemen and Pakistan Rangers have been deployed to protect Bhutto, who is returning to Pakistan following secret parleys with embattled President Pervez Musharraf for a power-sharing arrangement.