ISLAMABAD In a relief to the still-grieving Sharif family, a top Pakistani court suspended on Wednesday the jail sentences of the embattled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in a corruption case that jeopardised their political career and ordered their release.
A large number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, including Sharif's brother, Shehbaz Sharif were present in the courtroom and cheered as the judgment was announced. Dozens of jubilant supporters even chanted "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif!" outside the court.
A two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court heard the petitions filed by Sharif, 68, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar challenging their conviction related to the purchase of four luxury flats in London through corrupt practices.
"The instant writ petition is allowed and sentence awarded to the petitioners by the accountability court shall remain suspended till the final adjudication of the appeal filed by the petitioner," reads the judgment.
The accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had sentenced the trio on July 6.
Sharif, 68, Maryam, 44, and Safdar, 54, were sentenced to 10 years, seven years and one year, respectively, in prison and fined in the Avenfield properties case.
The accused were also disqualified to contest elections or to hold public office for a period of 10 years after release.
Following the accountability court's judgment, the Sharifs filed separate petitions requesting the high court to suspend sentences and set aside the verdict.
The ruling by the Islamabad High Court comes just a week after Sharif's wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, died from cancer in London.
The trio were briefly allowed out of the high-security Adiala Jail on parole to attend her funeral. They returned to jail on Monday.
The two-judge bench also ordered the release of the former premier, his daughter and son-in-law from the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.
Sharif, Maryam and Safdar were also directed to submit bail bonds worth Rs 500,000.
According to jail officials, Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar will be released on Wednesday if the order is received prior to the expiration of lock-up time.
Quoting sources, Geo News reported that if the former premier, his daughter and son-in-law are released, they will be taken to Lahore via a special flight.
Pakistani media reported that the verdict would remain a temporary relief for the former prime minister and his family members until the court gives the final decision on their application seeking suspension of their conviction in the Avenfield case.
Apart from the Avenfield case, the Sharifs face jail terms if they are convicted in two more corruption cases related to Al-Azizia and Flagship cases.
The cases against the family stemmed from Panama Papers case in April 2016.
In a blow to Pakistan's anti-corruption watchdog, the Islamabad High Court also dismissed the National Accountability Bureau's request to first announce a judgment on the maintainability of the pleas. The bench also imposed a fine on the NAB lawyers earlier for using delaying tactics.
The NAB was also pulled up by the Supreme Court on Monday when it rejected its petition challenging the IHC's decision to hear Sharifs' petitions against the Avenfield verdict.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar termed the NAB petition as frivolous and imposed a Rs 20,000 fine on the anti-corruption watchdog.
Sharif resigned as Pakistan prime minister last year after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office and ruled that graft cases be filed against the beleaguered leader and his children over the Panama Papers scandal.
The Avenfield case was among the three corruption cases filed against the three-time former premier and his children by the NAB on the Supreme Court's orders in the Panama Papers case which disqualified Sharif.
Sharif has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges are political motivated.
His supporters believe the real reason he was convicted was because he had fallen out with the country's powerful army.
Leader of the Opposition and Sharif's younger brother, Shahbaz, following the verdict, tweeted a Quranic verse to express gratitude on suspension of the sentences.
"Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart," he tweeted.
Sharif family reaches Lahore after court reprieve
Deposed Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law were brought to their home turf, Lahore, in a special plane after their release from prison in Islamabad Wednesday evening, hours after the Islamabad High Court suspended their sentences in a major corruption case that jeopardised their political career.
A large number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party supporters, including women workers, gathered outside the Haj Terminal to welcome them.
Subsequently, the Sharif family was escorted to their Jati Umra residence located in the outskirts of Lahore.
While they were being escorted, the party supporters showered Sharif's car with rose petals and chanted slogans "dekho dekho kon aya, sher aya, sher aya (see who has come, a lion has come)".
Some of the supporters also kissed his car saying, "You are innocent, we love you."
A large number of PML-N workers were also present at Jati Umra to greet the the former prime minister, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar.
The road leading to Jati Umra was lit up as workers queued up there to receive their leaders.
"I have come here soon after I heard the release of my leader (Sharif) from the Adiala jail. I am very happy to have him among us," Hasan Ali, a PML-N worker, said.
He said no corruption charge has been proved against his leader and he was put behind the bar to give Imran Khan an "open field" to form the government.
The PML-N workers distributed sweets and also offered thanks giving prayer at Jati Umra.
"We will continue celebrating the release of our leader for coming days," PML-N leader Imran Nazir said.
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif said the court's decision has vindicated his elder brother. "Today truth prevailed and my brother has been vindicated," he added.
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