ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday questioned why the National Accountability Bureau did not make ex-army chief Pervez Musharraf a party in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case when he had facilitated the Sharifs to go into exile and avoid facing a reference.

The court, meanwhile, barred the media from discussing merits and demerits of the case in live talk shows and directed Pemra to ensure its implementation. However, the court clarified that the media could do factual reporting on the case.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, heard a NAB appeal against the Lahore High Court order to quash the Hudaibiya case.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa questioned whether the exile could be used as a legal disability by NAB not to proceed against the Sharifs. Justice Mushir Alam inquired whether the arrangement [between Musharraf and the Sharifs] regarding the exile had any legal backing and whether the voluntary absence stopped NAB from proceeding against them.

The court noted that in the last 11 years (from 2000 to 2011), NAB did nothing to proceed against the Sharifs, as at that time, one general (Musharraf) was ruling the country and another general (Lt-Gen Muhammad Amjad), was NAB chairman under him.

Justice Mushir asked NAB official to summarise how Nawaz influenced NAB when he was not in power and Asif Ali Zardari was the president and Bukhari was NAB chairman.

NAB Special Prosecutor General Imranul Haq said the reference was filed on March 27, 2001, and it was adjourned sine die for on April 12, 2001.

He added: “It was revived on August 17, 2007, but again adjourned sine die on August 21, 2008. On August 23, 2008, NAB filed an application for revival of the proceeding but when no proceeding took place until September 4, 2008, it was dismissed on November 12, 2008.

“On May 3, 2010, NAB filed an application for the reopening but the accountability court dismissed the application with the observation that it should be filed with the signature of NAB chairman, Another application with the signature of NAB chairman was filed on July 17, 2012, after Fasih Bukhari was appointed as chief of the bureau.”

According to Dawn News website, the lawyer told the court that on July 17, 2011, the NAB chairman had filed a request for the case to be reopened. On 17 October that year, the accused had filed a petition in the LHC and the day after, a stay order was issued, the lawyer said.

"The LHC did not issue a stay order," Justice Justice Qazi Faez snapped back, adding that NAB had the reference squashed. "Even if we revoke the high court's decision, the references will not be restored," the judge remarked.

The lawyer said that an accountability court will hear the petition for the references to be restored. The court then asked him lawyer to present NAB arguments for the reopening of case.

"If it weren't for the Panama Papers case, you wouldn't do anything," Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked, instructing the lawyer to read the operative part of the SC's verdict.

"The verdict does not say anything about Hudaibiya," the judge noted. "It says that when NAB files an appeal, it will be looked at."

The court said that NAB prosecutor has failed to establish the ground of influence used by the Sharifs to quash the reference against them.

The court, meanwhile, dismissed a NAB application to defer the case till the appointment of a permanent prosecutor general and adjourned the hearing for today (Tuesday).