Supreme Court Friday overturned convictions against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for plane hijacking and terrorism, two months after reversing a ban on the opposition leader's holding office.
Sharif was convicted of "hijacking" a commercial jet carrying Pervez Musharraf after denying the aircraft landing rights on October 12, 1999 as Pakistan was convulsed by a coup that swept Musharraf to power.
The plane eventually landed and Musharraf, who was then army chief of staff, seized control of the nuclear armed nation.
"Looking at the case from any angle -- the charge of hijacking, attempt to hijack or terrorism does not stand established against the petitioner," the Supreme Court ruled on a petition filed by Sharif.
The five-judge court headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani heard the petition in June, but initially reserved judgement.
"The conviction and sentence of the appellant are set aside and he is acquitted," said the order, written in English.
The "petitioner had neither used force nor ordered its use and undisputedly no deceitful means were used.
" The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party headed by Sharif, who has become the most popular politician in the country, welcomed the judgement.
"A judgement given by a kangaroo court nine years ago has been nullified by an independent and sovereign apex court in the light of the constitution, law and evidence on record," PML-N spokesman Siddique-ul-Farooq said.
He said the party would now endeavour to bring former "dictator Pervez Musharraf to book and hold him accountable.
" Friday's order came almost two months after the Supreme Court overturned a ban on Sharif holding office, allowing the popular leader to contest elections in the politically turbulent nation.
A court decision in February to disqualify Sharif and his politician brother Shahbaz Sharif sparked massive protests that plunged the nuclear-armed country into turmoil and unnerved its Western allies last March.
Under Western pressure, the government agreed on March 16 to reinstate the popular chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was sacked by Musharraf and whose promised reinstatement the government had stalled.
Nawaz Sharif was first elected prime minister in 1990 but was sacked three years later on corruption charges.
He returned to power in 1997, but in 1999 was ousted in a coup by Musharraf, who brought criminal charges against him for hijacking, terrorism and attempted murder.
Convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges he said were politically motivated, Sharif retreated into exile in December 2000, returning to Pakistan in November 2007 with Musharraf's agreement.