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 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.
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.
The ruling 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.
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.
The Sharif family is now facing two more corruption cases in the accountability court – Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments – in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets.
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.
(With inputs from PTI)