ISLAMABAD: A massive power cut across Pakistan Monday affected most of the country’s 220 million residents, including in big cities like Karachi and Lahore, but with communities in the dark authorities signalled a restoration of electricity had begun.
Pakistan’s power system is a complex and delicate web, where problems can quickly cascade.
The latest breakdown was caused by a fault in the national grid at about 7:30 am (0230 GMT), linked to a cost-cutting measure as the country’s economy ails.
Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said in a video statement that the hope was to restore electricity nationwide by late Monday.
At night he took to Twitter to assure Pakistanis that power was gradually returning.
“We have begun restoration of electricity across the country,” he posted.
The minister tweeted that power had returned to the center of the capital Islamabad, and to Gujranwala, a city some 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the southeast.
Khan also retweeted a user who stated there was now “light in Lahore,” Pakistan’s second most populous city with more than 10 million residents.
A variation in frequency on the national grid caused the cut, 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.
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 overnight with supplies of natural gas — the most common heating method — also unreliable due to load-shedding.
– ‘Sitting idle’ – The economy is already hobbled by rampant inflation, a falling rupee, and severely low foreign exchange reserves, with the power cut piling extra pressure on small businesses.
In the garrison city of Rawalpindi, homeware trader Muhammad Iftikhar Sheikh, 71, said he was unable to demonstrate electronic products to browsing patrons.
“The customers never buy without testing first,” he said. “All of us are sitting idle.”
Schools mostly continued either in the dark or using battery-powered lighting.
A shop owner in the southern port city Karachi, where temperatures were higher, told AFP he feared his entire dairy stock would spoil without refrigeration.
Printer Khurrum Khan, 39, said orders were piling up because of the blackout.
Unreliable power is “a permanent curse which our governments have failed to overcome”, he complained.
Karachi, with a population of more than 15 million, and Lahore, both remained largely without power as darkness fell.
Mobile phone services were also disrupted as a result of the outage, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority tweeted.
A similar breakdown in January 2021 affected the entire country, after a fault occurred in southern Pakistan, tripping the national transmission system.