ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Supreme Court on Friday declared all the country's rental power plants unlawful and ordered legal proceedings against a close presidential aide and other top officials for corruption.
There was no immediate government reaction to the Supreme Court move, which declared a key government strategy to overcome severe electricity shortages a "complete failure".
The supreme court cancelled all government contracts with Pakistan's nine Rental Power Projects (RPP), and ordered civil and criminal action against officials who were responsible for failing to generate enough electricity.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said the contracts were "in contravention of law, which, besides suffering from other irregularities, violated the principle of transparency and fair and open competition."
"The same are declared to be non-transparent, illegal and (invalid)," he added in the written judgement.
Chaudhry said the contracts of RPPs "are ordered to be rescinded forthwith and all the persons responsible for the same are liable to be dealt with for civil and criminal action in accordance with law".
The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau to take action against all federal ministers and secretaries of water and power in successive governments since 2006 for "wasting billions of rupees on rental power projects".
The order affects former minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who is a key advisor to President Asif Ali Zardari on political and party matters.
Some within the government accuse the Supreme Court of pursuing a vendetta against Zardari. Judges are separately pursuing a contempt case against the prime minister for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to re-open corruption cases against the president.
Supporters of the court say that it is trying to clean up public life by stemming chronic corruption in Pakistan.
The Supreme Court said rental power projects had proved a total failure for failing to overcome chronic electricity shortages.
Pakistan needs to produce 16,000 megawatts of electricity a day but only manages 13,000 megawatts, according to the Pakistan Electric Power Company.
The shortfall sparks frequent violent protests and sees millions go without power for up to 16 hours a day, leaving them freezing in winter and sweltering in summer while hitting industry hard, exacerbating a slow-burn recession. AGENCIES