LAHORE - The execution of Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani national who was on death row in Indonesia, was halted early Friday, though the country went ahead with executing four drug convicts despite a storm of global anger against Far-East country’s campaign of capital punishment.

Three of those put to death by firing squad were Nigerians while the fourth one was an Indonesian. They were put to death shortly after midnight, Noor Rachmad, deputy attorney general for general crimes, told reporters.

Zulfiqar was among the 10 lucky convicts belonging to Pakistan, India, Zimbabwe and Indonesia who were not executed.

Officials did not give a reason for the reprieve, but the prison island where they were expected to be executed was hit by a major storm as the other sentences were carried out.

Three Indonesian television networks said the executions occurred at the Nusa Kambangan prison island.

Indonesia’s attorney-general had stated earlier this week that 14 people, mostly foreigners, would be executed.

Relatives, rights groups and foreign governments had urged Indonesia to spare their lives. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union also voiced strong opposition to the plan.

It is the third set of executions under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo who was elected in 2014 and campaigned on promises to improve human rights in Indonesia.

The relatives of Zulfiqar told local media channels that his appeal against the punishment was approved by Indonesian authorities hours before he was going to face the bullets. The good news set a wave of jubilation among the dear-ones of the man.

Pakistan had been angered about the planned execution of Zulfiqar — who rights groups claim was beaten into confessing — and summoned Indonesia’s ambassador in Islamabad this week to convey their concerns.

Pakistani officials struggled hard to get his execution halted after Indonesia rejected the other day mercy petitions of all the 14 prisoners.

Protests spread in big cities of the Punjab province yesterday afternoon as speculation mounted the convicts could face the firing squad in a matter of hours.

Several civil society activists joined relatives and family member of Zulfiqar at Faisal Chowk on the Mall road late Wednesday night where they staged a sit-in.

The protesters were carrying placards and banners inscribed with slogans against executions. They also demanded the international community to intervene into the situation and save the lives of prisoners.

“The United Nations must play its role to stop executions (of drug convicts) since they were not given an opportunity of free and fair trial,” said, Muhammad Jameel a family friend of Zulfiqar.

The hours-long sit-in triggered worst traffic mess on The Mall and its adjacent arteries as police directed the flow of vehicular traffic towards already packed roads.

Some female relatives of Zulfiqar were seen in tears as they continued protest on the leading road for several hours amid sizzling heat. Civil society activists also staged protest demonstrations against the planned executions in Faisalabad, Mulatn, and Rawalpindi.

“My brother is innocent and he was wrongly implicated in the drug case. We appeal to the President of Indonesia to accept his mercy petition. He has already spent several years in prison. Therefore he should be set free,” said a 50-year-old woman while tears were rolling down from her cheeks.

Islamabad stepped up diplomatic efforts early this week for the release of Ali, who was arrested in November 2004 in connection with a 300-gram heroine case in Jakarta. A co-accused in the case, Gurdip Singh, retracted his statement against Zulfiqar, saying the confession had been coerced from him.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar yesterday told the Senate that the government was pursuing the case of Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali facing death penalty in Indonesia. Responding to a Point of Order, raised by Nighat Parveen about imminent execution of a Pakistani national in Indonesia, he said that Foreign Office and the Prime Minister’s Office did intervene in the matter soon after the issue surfaced. He said that he has also received some SMS about the execution of the Pakistani national. Dar said all appellant processes have been exhausted except mercy appeal to the President. However, he (Zulfiqar Ali) has not yet availed the mercy appeal, he added.

He assured the House that he would personally follow the issue. Earlier, speaking on the Point of Order Nighat Parveen said a Pakistani national was facing imminent execution and called for government’s intervention into the matter to set Zulfikar Ali free.

While addressing a weekly briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Islamabad is in touch with top officials in the Indonesian capital and will keep up efforts to halt Ali’s hanging ‘till the last moment’.

Syed Zahid Raza, the deputy Pakistani ambassador in Jakarta, said Zulfiqar Ali’s family had been informed he would be executed Thursday night.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who was in Laos for an Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum meeting, sought a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on the issue, media reported on Tuesday. Indonesian Ambassador Iwan Suyudhie Amri was also summoned to the Foreign Office over the expected execution.