Islamabad (AP) — Much of Pakistan was left without power on Monday after government energy-saving measures backfired. The blackout spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the country’s economic crisis.
It all started when electricity was turned off during low-use hours at night to save fuel across the country, and technicians were unable to start the system all at once after dawn. The outage is reminiscent of the massive blackout that occurred in January 2021, when it was caused by technical failures in Pakistan’s power generation and distribution system.
Power outages lasted more than 12 hours in many major cities, including the capital Islamabad, and in remote towns and villages across Pakistan. With the power outage continuing into Monday night, authorities have deployed additional police in markets across the country to ensure safety.
Authorities said late Monday that power had been restored in many cities, 15 hours after the blackout was reported.
Previously, a nationwide blackout left about 220 million people in the country without drinking water. This is because the electricity-powered pump has stopped working. Schools, hospitals, factories and shops lost power in the harsh winter weather.
Energy Minister Cram Dustgill told local media that technicians were working to restore power across the country and were trying to reassure the country that power would be fully restored within the next 12 hours. rice field.
According to the minister, electricity usage usually decreases at night during the winter months — unlike summer, when Pakistanis rely on air conditioning to escape the heat.
“As an economic measure, we have temporarily shut down the power generation system,” Dastgir said Sunday evening. When the engineer tried to power cycle the system, “voltage fluctuations” were observed, “forcing the engineer to shut down the power grid one by one.”
Dastgir argued that the blackout did not constitute a major crisis and that electricity was being restored in stages. Many locations and major businesses and institutions, including hospitals, military installations, and government installations, had backup generators activated.
By late Monday afternoon, Dastgir told reporters at a separate press conference that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif had ordered an investigation into the blackout.
“I hope that the electricity supply will be fully restored tonight,” he said.
Before midnight, power was restored in Karachi, the country’s largest city and economic center, as well as many other major cities, including Rawalpindi, Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore, capital of eastern Punjab.
In Lahore, a closure notice was posted at an Orange Line metro station, railway workers guarded the site, and trains parked on the rails. It was unclear when the subway system would be restored.
Imran Rana, a spokesperson for Karachi’s power supply company, said the government’s priority is to restore power to strategic facilities, including hospitals and airports, first.
Internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org said network data showed that Internet access in Pakistan had dropped significantly due to the blackout. As many users struggled to get online on Monday, metrics showed connectivity was at his 60% of normal levels.
Pakistan derives at least 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, but almost 27% of its electricity is produced by hydroelectric power. The contribution of nuclear and solar power to the national grid is around 10%.
Pakistan is grappling with one of the country’s worst economic crises in recent years as its foreign exchange reserves dwindle. This forced the government to order shopping malls and markets to close by 8:30 pm to save energy.
Negotiations are underway with the International Monetary Fund to ease the terms of Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout, which the government believes will lead to a further rise in inflation. The IMF released its last significant $1.1 billion tranche to Islamabad in August.
Since then, discussions between the two parties have been rocked by Pakistan’s reluctance to impose new tax measures.
John Gambrel, AP writer from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.