Former Prime Minister Sharif returns to Pakistan after years of exile

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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, witnesses and an official from Sharif's party said.

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

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

But they failed to prevent jubilant crowds of supporters from pushing past barriers of metal and barbed wire that had been placed across the approach roads.

Several hundred people swarmed into the terminal, waving the green flags of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party and shouting slogans including "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif" and "Go, Musharraf, go!"

Hundreds more gathered outside the airport perimeter fence and along the route into the city, where loudspeakers mounted on trucks were blaring out patriotic songs.