Power outages continue in Pak despite minister’s claim of full restoration

Islamabad, Jan 24 (PTI) Large parts of Pakistan on Tuesday experienced periodic electricity outages despite the government’s claim that the power supply was fully restored across the country following a nationwide breakdown, the second in nearly four months.

The country sank into darkness due to the sudden breakdown of electricity on Monday morning after frequency variations hit the national grid, disrupting normal life and affecting millions of people.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday apologised to the nation for the inconvenience caused by the countrywide power outage.

Taking to Twitter, the premier wrote: “On behalf of my government, I would like to express my sincere regrets for the inconvenience our citizens suffered due to the power outage yesterday.”

“On my orders, an inquiry is underway to determine reasons for the power failure. Responsibility will be fixed,” he tweeted.

Minister for Energy Khurram Dastgir said on Tuesday that electricity has been fully restored at grid stations across the country.

“Power at all 1,112 stations of the national grid has been restored,” Dastgir tweeted.

The restoration failed to provide sustained power to large parts of the country and hours-long power outages were witnessed in Islamabad and other major cities.

Officials said that it was being caused by low production as compared to the demand.

Dastgir said the country’s transmission system had not been affected but explained that electricity was required to get power plants and dams up and running.

He said that approximately 6,600 megawatts (MW) 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 tweeted.

The minister also said that the government suspected “foreign intervention such as hacking of systems” that caused the breakdown.

“But its chances are very less. There have been incidents previously and we have to rule out this thing,” he added.

A top official from the Biden administration said on Monday the US was ready to assist Pakistan in resolving its electricity woes.

“(We) have seen what has transpired in Pakistan. Our thoughts are with all those who’ve been affected by the outages. The US has assisted our Pakistani partners across any number of challenges,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference on Monday.

“We’re prepared to do so in this case, if there is something that we’re able to provide. But I’m not aware of any particular request yet,” he said.

Monday’s breakdown was the third massive power outage Pakistan suffered in three consecutive years, showing serious 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 took more than 12 hours to restore it.

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.

Shahbaz Rana, a respected 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.

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