Pakistan hit by nationwide power outage

News Desk
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2023

ISLAMABAD: A massive power breakdown in Pakistan on Monday affected most of the country’s more than 220 million people, including in the mega cities of Karachi and Lahore.

The breakdown was caused by a fault in the national grid at around 7:30 am (0230 GMT), plunging much of the country into darkness. “We hope that the electricity will be restored throughout the country by tonight,” Energy Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan said in a video statement.

The cut was caused by a variation in frequency on the national grid as power generation units were turned on early in the morning. The units had been temporarily switched off at night to save fuel, Khan earlier told the media.

“According to initial reports, the system frequency dropped at the national grid in the morning which led to a massive breakdown,” the ministry of energy earlier tweeted. Repair work was underway, with limited power restored in parts of the capital and Peshawar city. Karachi and Lahore remained largely without power as darkness fell.

Localised power cuts are common in Pakistan and hospitals, factories and government institutions are often kept running by private generators. The machines are, however, beyond the means of most citizens and small businesses.

In parts of northern Pakistan, temperatures were due to drop below freezing on Monday night with supplies of natural gas — the most common heating method — also unreliable due to load-shedding.

“We hardly managed to come to school as there was no electricity at home,” said 25-year-old Karachi teacher Vareesha Nadeem. “Here in classes we are using battery-powered lights but they’ll run out soon. Power outages have just become a part of our lives as they happen so often.”

A shop owner in the megacity told AFP he feared his entire dairy stock would spoil without refrigeration, and 39-year-old printer Khurrum Khan said orders were piling up because of the blackout.

Unreliable power is “a permanent curse which our governments have failed to overcome,” Khan complained. In the garrison city of Rawalpindi, neighbouring Islamabad, most shops were struggling without power.

Homeware trader Muhammad Iftikhar Sheikh, 71, said he was unable to demonstrate electronic products to browsing customers. “The customers never buy without testing first,” he said. “All of us are sitting idle.”

A similar breakdown in January 2021 plunged the entire country into darkness after a fault occurred in southern Pakistan, tripping the national transmission system.