Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz was released from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail on bail on Saturday after spending 20 months in connection with a money laundering case against him.
The PML-N leader was released on the orders of accountability court judge Akmal Khan after the examination and approval of his bail bonds. The court stated that Hamza should be released if he was not wanted in any other case.
He was ordered to appear before the court on March 4 for the next hearing in the case.
The PML-N leader was greeted by PML-N workers outside Kot Lakhpat jail who had gathered to celebrate his release. Carrying flower petals for Hamza's welcome, they danced and chanted slogans in his favour and against the government.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz was also present outside the jail to receive her cousin and posted a picture on Twitter of the two sitting in a car, along with PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb.
Addressing supporters after his release, Hamza said, "Today the whole nation saw the logical end of this accountability drama.
"Despite three years of the worst victimisation, they could not prove a penny's worth of corruption against [PML-N supremo] Nawaz Sharif's soldiers and the Sharif family."
He said three years had come to pass since the current government was formed and the people had seen that this was a "fake government". Hamza alleged that the "rented spokespersons" of Prime Minister Imran Khan continued to lie about various cases such as the Broadsheet case or the Daily Mail's allegations against his father Shehbaz Sharif.
He said these actions were based on revenge, and this "fire of revenge" did not seem to be cooling down. "When nothing is found, then he [Prime Minister Imran] is angered, and that anger is vented out on Pakistan's 220 million population."
He also mentioned the recent controversy regarding the NA-75 (Daska) by-polls and added that the people of Nowshera had rejected the PTI and decided in favour of the PML-N.
Earlier, while speaking to media in Lahore before she set out for the prison, Maryam praised Hamza's "bravery, courage and strength" for spending months in jail and facing what she called "false cases" against him.
"I think he is a great asset of the party," said Maryam, adding that he would continue to work relentlessly for the PML-N.
PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal also took to Twitter and said Hamza had won his freedom today. He said PML-N leaders had been the targets of "[Prime Minister] Imran vendetta but their resolve has grown stronger".
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday granted bail to Hamza in the money laundering case, ordering jail authorities to release him after the submission of bail bonds. A two-judge bench of the LHC announced the order after the counsel for the National Accountability Bureau completed his arguments during Wednesday's hearing.
Earlier this month, Hamza had filed his second petition before the high court for post-arrest bail on merit in the reference related to money laundering and owning assets beyond means.
The bail had also been sought on an additional ground of hardship and inordinate delay in the trial proceedings as the Supreme Court in January denied relief to the petitioner with a direction to approach the LHC with fresh grounds for bail.
The petition filed through advocates Azam Nazir Tarar and Amjad Pervaiz stated that Hamza was arrested on June 11, 2019, while the reference was filed on Aug 20, 2020, and the charges were framed on Nov 11, 2020, after an "unconscionable delay" of 17 months. It said the delay could not be attributed to the petitioner in any manner whatsoever.
It argued that the petitioner was entitled to bail on this ground of delay alone without touching the merits of the case.