Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has returned to Pakistan after more than four years in exile, defying a Taliban death threat and vowing to "save" the country at the risk of his life.
"I have come back home today. Where are those who used to say I would never come back?" the former dictator, who plans to stand in the May 11 general election, told members of his political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, at Karachi airport.
Hundreds of supporters had gathered at the airport yesterday, beating drums, dancing, waving green flags with pictures of Musharraf and Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and scattering rose petals.
"I don't get scared by anyone except Allah the Almighty … I have come back by putting my life in danger," Musharraf, who also faces legal cases, said.
The poll will be the first democratic transition of power for the nuclear-armed country dominated by periods of military rule.
Pakistan yesterday selected a caretaker prime minister, retired judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, to head an interim administration during the election period.
Musharraf, 69, remains a controversial figure and is thought unlikely to win more than a couple of seats for his party. He seized power in a bloodless coup as army chief in 1999 but left the country after resigning in 2008, when Asif Ali Zardari was elected president after the murder of Zadari's wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Musharraf escaped three al-Qaeda assassination attempts. He became a prominent target for Islamist extremists for making Pakistan a key US ally after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Musharraf was forced to scrap plans to hold a rally in Karachi at the tomb of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, after the Taliban threatened to send suicide bombers.
Musharraf, who has been granted protective bail to lift the threat of immediate arrest on his return to Pakistan, said before leaving Dubai that he was "not feeling nervous" but admitted some concern. One of the legal cases that has long ensnared him concerns the assassination of Bhutto in December 2007, three months after she returned from her own self-imposed exile. He is accused of failing to provide her with adequate security.
Another case concerns the 2006 death of rebel leader Akbar Bugti , and another relates to the 2007 sacking and arrest of judges.
Bhutto's son has accused Musharraf of his mother's murder. In 2010 a UN report said Bhutto's death could have been prevented and accused Musharraf's government of failing to provide her with adequate security.