Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was released from jail on Wednesday after a court suspended his 10-year prison term for corruption.
The Islamabad High Court suspended the sentences of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar almost two months after their arrest, which followed another court finding them guilty of corrupt practices.
Sharif and his family members were released from the high-security jail in the city of Rawalpindi.
Hundreds of Sharif’s supporters, who were present outside the jail, showered rose petals at his car and raised slogans praising him.
Sharif left for his home in eastern city of Lahore under special security arrangements.
The Islamabad court’s decision on Wednesday is seen as a move that could change the course of Pakistan’s power politics.
Sharif had been jailed just weeks before Pakistan’s general election in July. The ex-premier called the case politically motivated, suggesting coordination between the courts and the influential military to undermine his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.
Sharif, known as an advocate for civilian supremacy in a country marred by years of violence by Islamist militants and political upheavals, has rough relations with the military and the judiciary.
All three of his terms in power ended prematurely, once through a direct military coup.
A hearing on two more corruption charges against Sharif and his family is under way in another court and the verdicts are expected soon.
Hours after the decision, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said that the anti-graft body has decided to challenge the decision at the Supreme Court.
Sharif and Maryam were sentenced to 10 and eight years in jail respectively by an anti-graft court in July on corruption charges related to information contained in the 2016 Panama papers leaks. Safdar got a one-year prison term.
The three-time prime minister had challenged the anti-graft court’s ruling, saying “the conviction and sentence are based on no evidence.”
“The high court has suspended the accountability court’s decision which was nothing but pre-poll rigging,” former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, who served in Sharif’s government, told the media after the ruling was announced.
“Today’s decision is a victory for justice,” said former foreign minister Khawaja Asif.