The crowd chanted Zhaqiyanov's name as he emerged at a train station in the southeastern city of Almaty.
Asked how he felt, Zhaqiyanov replied "excellent" but declined to answer questions about his political plans.
On 14 January, Zhaqiyanov's wife said he was freed on parole after judges rejected a prosecutor's appeal against his early release.
Zhaqiyanov co-founded the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement (DVK) in 2001. He was sentenced to seven years in prison the following year on abuse-of-office charges while governor of Pavlodar Oblast. DVK was banned in 2004.
Zhaqiyanov's supporters and rights groups say his imprisonment was politically motivated.