Ousted Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law were released from prison on Wednesday, hours after a top court suspended their sentences in a major corruption case that jeopardised their political career.
In a relief to the still-grieving Sharif family, a two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court suspended the jail sentences of the embattled former prime minister Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield corruption case and ordered their release.
Sharif's younger brother and President of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shehbaz Sharif and other party leaders meet the former premier at the high-security Adiala Prison before he was released, Geo News reported.
Shehbaz, along with party leaders, met Nawaz in the office of the jail superintendent.
During the meeting, Sharif said, "I have not done anything wrong; my conscience is satisfied."
Sharif told party leaders that Almighty Allah favours what is right and just. "Allah will grant justice to me," he said.
The former three-time premier, his daughter and son-in-law were taken to the Noor Khan Airbase amidst tight security. They will leave for Lahore via a special plane, the report said.
A large number of party workers have also been accompanying the PML-N supremo to the airbase. Jubilant workers have been chanting slogans and showering the ex-premier's vehicle with rose petals.
Earlier, a two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court heard the petitions filed by Sharif, Maryam and 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.
A date will now be fixed for the hearing of the appeals.
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. Both Maryam and Safdar are politicians. The accountability court verdict had ruined their political career.
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.
Following is the chronology of the major events leading to the arrest and release of Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif:
April 4, 2016: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism publishes the Panama Papers, exposing tax evasion by the world's elite through off-shore accounts and shell companies. The documents include the name of the Sharif family.
April 5, 2016: Sharif sets up a judicial committee to investigate the allegations, denies charges.
April 26, 2016: Opposition parties reject the judicial commission set up by the government.
November 1, 2016: The Supreme Court decides to pursue a case related to Nawaz Sharif.
November 7, 2016: PML-N submits Qatari prince's letter to the Supreme Court containing information about the London flats that were at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal.
January 6, 2017: Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz submits details of assets after the Supreme Court resumes hearing.
April 20, 2017: The Supreme Court orders formation of a joint investigation team with a split 3-2 verdict to probe the corruption charges against Sharif.
May 5, 2017: SC formally constitutes the joint investigation team.
May 22, 2017: The joint investigation team presents its first bi-weekly report to the Supreme Court.
May 24, 2017: The joint investigation team sends questionnaires to Sharif and his two sons - Hussain and Hassan.
June 13, 2017: The joint investigation team submits report to the Supreme Court on obstructions to its work, blames government institutions for "creating impediments in the collection of evidence".
June 15, 2017: Sharif appears before the joint investigation team for questioning, becoming the first sitting Pakistan prime minister to appear before any investigating agency.
June 17, 2017: Sharif's younger brother and chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif are questioned by joint investigation team.
July 5, 2017: Sharif's daughter Maryam appears before joint investigation team.
July 7, 2017: Former Qatari premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani sends a letter to the joint investigation team, asking it to record his statement at his palace before submitting its final report to the Supreme Court.
July 10, 2017: The joint investigation team submits final report to the Supreme Court.
July 28, 2017: The five-member Supreme Court bench unanimously rules against Sharif, disqualifying him from office.
August 15, 2017: Sharif files three separate appeals in the Supreme Court to review its verdict in the Panama Papers case that resulted in his disqualification.
September 14, 2017: Sharif and his children summoned by an anti-graft court to appear before it on September 19 in two more corruption cases.
September 15, 2017: The Supreme Court dismisses the review petitions filed by Sharif, his children and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, challenging his disqualification in the Panama Papers scandal.
September 22, 2017: Pakistan's anti-graft body freezes accounts and seizes properties of Sharif and his family.
September 26, 2017: Sharif for the first time appears before an accountability court to face the corruption charges filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau in the Panama Papers scandal.
October 3, 2017: Sharif re-elected as the president of Pakistan's ruling PML-N party after Parliament passed a controversial bill, paving the way for the ousted prime minister's return to politics.
October 9, 2017: Maryam Nawaz, Sharif's daughter, son-in-law get bail in the Panama Papers case.
October 19, 2017: Pakistan anti-graft court indicts Sharif, his daughter, son-in law.
October 26, 2017: Pakistan court issues warrant for Sharif after he fails to appear.
November 2, 2017: Sharif returns home from UK to face trial.
November 15, 2017: Pakistan anti-graft court begins trial of Sharif, his family.
February 21, 2018: Pakistan Supreme Court disqualifies Sharif as PML-N chief.
April 13, 2018: Sharif barred from contesting elections for life after the Pakistan Supreme Court verdict.
July 6, 2018: Sharif sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment in the Avenfield properties case.
July 10, 2018: Pakistan puts Sharif and daughter on exit control list.
July 12, 2018: Pakistan anti-corruption court dismisses Sharif's plea to transfer remaining two corruption cases.
July 12, 2018: Sharif and Maryam leave from London for Pakistan.
July 13, 2018: Sharif and Maryam arrested on their arrival in Lahore and taken to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.
July 16, 2018: Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law file separate appeals in the Islamabad High Court against the verdict in a corruption case and seek their release from jail.
July 23, 2018: Medical board examines Sharif after reports of health related complications.
August 8, 2018: Pakistani authorities blacklist Sharif's sons, blocks their passports.
August 13, 208: Sharif appears in Pakistan court, for the first time since his arrest, in remaining 2 graft cases against him.
September 11, 2018: Sharif's wife Kulsoom Nawaz dies in London.
September, 12 2018: Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law granted parole, reach Lahore to attend Kulsoom's funeral.
September 19, 2018: The Islamabad High Court suspends the jail sentences of Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in a corruption case and orders their release from the Adiala Jail.
Sept 19: Sheriff, Maryam and Safdar released.
(With inputs from PTI)