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Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan from exile on Monday to lead a campaign against the military ruler who ousted him eight years ago, sparking an immediate stand-off with authorities.
As his supporters battled police blocking roads leading to Islamabad airport, black-uniformed commandos entered the Pakistan International Airlines jetliner soon after it landed and surrounded Sharif, an Associated Press reporter on board said.
Pakistan's increasingly assertive Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a political rival to Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, can return from exile, throwing Pakistan's politics into turmoil and threatening the American strategy of support for the president.
The court's decision dealt a blow to Musharraf by allowing the rival, Nawaz Sharif, whom he ousted as prime minister in a 1999 military coup, to run for election here this fall. It may also encourage another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who has also been living in exile, to try to return.