Karachi: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf arrived in Karachi from Dubai on Sunday, ending four years of self-exile and defying a Taliban death threat.
His scheduled Emirates flight from Dubai landed at around 12:48 local time (0748 GMT) after a journey that saw his official Facebook and Twitter accounts provide a running commentary, posting messages and photographs of him on board.
Musharraf intends to contest the next general elections on May 11.
His supporters started chanting slogans as the plane touched down. They stepped on the cabin seats and blocked the walkways.
The cabin crew members could not serve food and passengers ignored their pleas to sit down.
At the airport, a heavy police force cordoned off the area, while roads were blocked to stop Musharraf's supporters from reaching the airport.
"I am feeling nostalgic," Musharraf told Gulf News while disembarking from the plane.
"I have come back home today. Where are those who used to say I would never come back?" Musharraf told members of his political party at Karachi airport.
Pakistan on Sunday selected a caretaker prime minister, retired judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, to head an interim administration to guide the country through the election period.
Happy to be going back
Earlier on Sunday, Musharraf kissed his 94-year-old mother goodbye before leaving his luxury flat in Downtown Dubai at 7am.
"I am happy I am going back," Musharraf told reporters at the Dubai Airport on Sunday.
Ready to face threats
On Saturday, Musharraf told Gulf News that he is "ready to face unknown threats as I am ready to go back home as was announced.”
Despite his uncertain political future and fading support, ambitious Musharraf said his team would field candidates under the banner of his political party – All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) – from all over the country in the May 11 polls.
In a Taliban video, Adnan Rasheed, who took part in a previous attempt to assassinate Musharraf, warned: “The mujahideen of Islam have prepared a special squad to send Musharraf to hell. There are suicide bombers, snipers, a special assault unit and a close combat team.”
Musharraf angered the Taliban and other groups by joining the US war on terror following the September 11 attacks and by later launching a major crackdown on militancy in Pakistan.
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup and resigned in 2008 when his allies lost a vote and a new government threatened him with impeachment. He left the country a year later in 2009 and since then been living in London and Dubai.
According to sources in APML, Musharraf has spent millions of dirhams for his media campaign and his preparations on his arrival. His party has rented some 200 buses to carry his supporters to welcome him at Karachi airport. However, analysts believe that he has so far failed to create any hype as a number of his own senior party leaders have already left him alone.
In Dubai, there was not even a single senior leader from his party but for some supporters from US, Canada and UK.
With the fading support, it will ostensibly be hard for Musharraf to regain his influence in Pakistan, where strong contenders for the election include Nawaz Sharif, the man he ousted in a military coup, and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan are emerging as strong political forces along with President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
He was a bit relieved on Saturday after he was granted protective bail in a series of legal cases, allowing him to return from exile without being arrested immediately.
He has been given pre-arrival, protective bail in three cases including over the 2007 sacking of judges, the 2006 death of Akbar Bugti, a Baloch leader and the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto case.
The decision means that Musharraf cannot be arrested for 10 days in connection with the judges’ arrests and for 14 days in connection with the other two cases.
With inputs from agencies