Karachi, May 16 - Pakistan's ailing virologist Khalil Chishti had an emotional reunion with his family here, 20 years after he had left for a fateful trip to India, as hundreds welcomed him on a homecoming that he described as a "fresh lease of life".
Chishti arrived to moving and tearful scenes at the Karachi airport yesterday where hundreds of people had gathered to welcome him.
The 82-year-old, who spent 20 long years away from home in an Indian jail on charge of involvement in a murder, was brought out of the Jinnah international airport in a wheelchair, looking frail and weak but with his spirits high.
"I am going straight to my residence where the first thing I want to do is play with my grandchildren," Chishti, who was wearing a Jinnah cap, told reporters at the airport last night.
"It is a dream come true for me to meet with my wife, my children and relatives again and I am thankful to the Pakistan and Indian governments for giving me this fresh lease of life," Chishti said.
Wiping tears, Chishti's daughter Tariqa said her father was a tired man and would be taken straight to his residence in North Nazimabad which had been lighted up to celebrate his return to Karachi.
"It is hard to describe our feelings right now. He has come back home after 20 years. It is a moment my mother and my sisters and brother have dreamt for years now as it has been a long fight for us," she said.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the airport to greet Chishti who was garlanded and showered with rose petals as he was brought out of the terminal where he was received by Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri and Mutthaida Qaumi Movement senator Nasreen Jalil and lawmaker Babar Ghouri.
Chishti returned to Pakistan last night on a special flight sent to bring him home by President Asif Ali Zardari.
He had landed in Islamabad on Tuesday. PTI