PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi was released from Lahore's Camp Jail on Saturday after two surety bonds of Rs5 million each were submitted to the Lahore High Court (LHC).
The deputy registrar (judicial) of the LHC signed his release order and sent it to Camp Jail's superintendent, with instructions to release the PML-N stalwart on bail, "provided he is not undergoing imprisonment for any other offence".
A large number of PML-N party members greeted Abbasi as he emerged from the jail exit. He later left for his hometown of Rawalpindi where he was given a warm reception by PML-N workers, who also chanted slogans in his favour.
"We completely respect court orders, and will continue to do so in future," Abbasi said. "I was sentenced by the court and I was also released by the court."
He thanked "the people, his party workers and leadership for supporting him in trying times," vowing to "continue his politics on Rawalpindi's grounds and serve the masses, if the fortune favours him".
Abbasi had been sentenced to life imprisonment which was suspended by the Lahore High Court on Thursday.
A two-member bench, headed by Justice Alia Neelum, after hearing detailed arguments from both sides, accepted Abbasi's plea to suspend his sentence. The court subsequently ordered his release on bail.
It, however, declared that it would continue to hear the case.
The sentence had been handed down in 2018 in the ephedrine quota case.
The ephedrine case surfaced in March 2011 when then federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin told the National Assembly that the government will investigate the alleged allocation of a quota for the production of 9,000kg of ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies — Berlex Lab International and Danas Pharmaceutical Limited.
According to the rules, a company cannot be allocated a production quota of more than 500kg of the drug, a limit fixed by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) had eventually registered a case in June 2012 against nine suspects, including Abbasi.
He was found guilty of selling 500kg of ephedrine to narcotics smugglers. He had obtained the controlled chemical for his company, Gray Pharmaceutical, in 2010. However, instead of using it for medicinal purposes, Abbasi sold it on to narcotics smugglers.
A fine of Rs1 million was imposed on the PML-N leader along with the life sentence. Seven others accused were acquitted in the case.