Electricity supply was restored incrementally in Pakistan on Tuesday after a nationwide power breakdown left millions of people without electricity amidst fears of default and looming economic meltdown due to a balance of payment crisis in the country. The massive power blackout on Monday was the second such outage in nearly four months.
“Today, at 5:15 am, the system was completely restored across the country,” Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir said .However, major cities, including Karachi, Quetta and Lahore, remained deprived of power, the Dawn newspaper said.
Dastgir said that approximately 6,600 megawatts of coal and 3,500MW of nuclear plants would take an estimated 48 to 72 hours to restart. “Until these plants start running, there will be limited load management, excluding industrial users,” he was quoted as saying by the paper.
The minister added that there was no fuel shortage in the country. “We are considerate of the electricity bills people have to pay and try not to unnecessarily use power plants that require a lot of energy,” he said. According to Dastgir, the disruption began after frequency variations hit the national grid, resulting in the cascading effect to shut down the supply to almost the entire country.
Officials began restoring electricity across the country and finally succeeded in bringing normalcy in supply by Tuesday. In a televised address, Dasgir promised to make the entire system functional by 10 pm Monday, but it took longer to provide power to different areas. He had said that the country’s transmission system was not affected but explained that electricity was required to get power plants and dams up and running.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has constituted a high-level committee to probe the nationwide power outage. It was Pakistan’s third massive power outage in three consecutive years, showing severe complications in the power distribution system of the country. The last breakdown in October 2022 took out about 8,000 megawatts from the national grid, and it took more than 12 hours to restore it.
It is said that the outage is a manifestation of a worsening economic crisis as the central bank has curbed imports, as the foreign exchange reserves have fallen to about USD 4 billion. Shahbaz Rana, a prominent journalist reporting on debt and economic affairs, tweeted that the power outage was a “symbol of governance breakdown and economic meltdown.” “It is the price that the nation will pay for the inflated egos of our rulers. If things do not improve from here, there will soon be breakdowns of supply chains of almost all essential goods,” he said.
Pakistan is grappling with one of the country’s worst economic crises in recent years amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The crisis forced the government earlier this month to order shopping malls and markets to close by 8:30 pm for energy conservation purposes. The sorry state of the country’s power sector is emblematic of its ailing economy. Power outages occur frequently due to a lack of funds to upgrade ageing infrastructure.