The Supreme Court on Tuesday, after questioning the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) Special Prosecutor Imranul Haq, adjourned its hearing of the Hudaibiyah Paper Mills reference till Dec 11 after the prosecutor asked for more time to prepare for the proceedings.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam conducted the hearing. The proceedings were witnessed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Fawad Chaudhry and Naeemul Haq, apart from the NAB prosecutor.

The judges questioned the NAB lawyer over why the Hudaibiya reference had earlier been disposed of, and why it had taken such a long time to begin proceedings against the Sharif family in the case.

The NAB prosecutor said that the high court had earlier closed the reference citing technicalities. When the court asked where the original reference was, the NAB lawyer said he did not have it. To this, Justice Alam said it was necessary for the court to have the original reference for the case to proceed.

The NAB lawyer also argued that he did not believe the high court had disposed of the reference on the basis of merit, to which Justice Qazi Faez Isa said the court would assess the merit of the case.

The NAB lawyer told the court that the Economic Reforms Act had been used by the accused to provide cover for money laundering.

"The Sharif family had a large quantity of unlawful income, which they laundered and sent abroad. All the money was turned white and deposited into the Hudaibiya accounts," he alleged.

"Fake bank accounts were opened through Ishaq Dar [to facilitate the transactions]," the prosecutor added, adding that the Sharif family's income was less than their assets.

The case was restarted in an accountability court after Nawaz's return, the prosecutor said, adding that when Nawaz returned to the country by means of the National Reconciliation Ordinance near election time in 2008, a court had ordered the reference to be filed again.

Justice Isa then asked when Nawaz was exiled.

"When the reference was restarted, why was no proof presented in court if the suspect was in the country for nine months?" Justice Isa asked, observing that there could be trouble regarding the delay in pursuance of the case. From March 27, 2000, to Dec 10, 2000, nothing happened, he pointed out.

On Nov 27, 2007, when Nawaz returned to Pakistan again, NAB remained quiet for another nine months, Justice Isa added, noting that NAB had requested the restoration of the reference nine months later.

"The case would be very different if the suspect were absconding," he said, adding that the court would have to review the legal standards employed in pursuing the case.

The NAB prosecutor said that the Sharif family became influential in 2014. "In 2014, the [referee judge of the] high court dismissed the reference and stopped NAB from restarting it," he alleged.

To this, Justice Mushir observed that the referee judge had to side with one of the judges' decisions in the case, to which the NAB lawyer responded that the referee judge had declared the decision of one of the judges as null and void.

When Justice Mushir objected to the length of time the reference was kept pending, the NAB lawyer argued that the Hudaibiya case is related to the Panamagate case, and that an appeal had been filed after the Supreme Court passed its judgement in the Panamagate case.

"We are not hearing the Panama case, we are hearing the Hudaibiya reference," Justice Mushir retorted, after which the NAB lawyer admitted he was not completely prepared for the court's proceedings in the reference.

The court asked for complete details regarding the timeline of the Hudaibiya references, the record of the case in the accountability court from March 27, 2000, to August 21, 2008, who the chairman NAB was at the time the references were being pursued, the criteria and method of appointment for the NAB chairman, details on the exile of the Sharif brothers, Nawaz Sharif's record following his return from exile, and a timeline of the Sharifs' appointments to public office.

"We want to see who could have influenced the NAB chairman," Justice Mushir said. The court said it would then assess the merits of the case.

The NAB prosecutor asked for four weeks to gather the required records, to which the judges asked why he needed so much time. "The complete record is with NAB," Justice Mushir said.

Justice Isa said the court wanted to hear the case and decide on it quickly.

The apex court subsequently adjourned the case until Dec 11.

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