San Francisco Chronicle
Lights out in Pakistan as energy-saving move backfires
ISLAMABAD — Most of Pakistan was left without power Monday as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage 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 usage hours overnight to conserve fuel across the country, officials said, leaving technicians unable to boot up the system all at once after daybreak. The outage was reminiscent of a massive blackout in January 2021, attributed at the time to a technical fault in Pakistan’s power generation and distribution system.
Many major cities, including the capital of Islamabad, and remote towns and villages across Pakistan were without electricity for more than 12 hours. As the electricity failure continued into Monday night, authorities deployed additional police at markets around the country to provide security.
Officials announced late Monday that power was restored in many cities, 15 hours after the outage was reported.
Earlier, the nationwide electricity breakdown left many of some 220 million people without drinking water as pumps powered by electricity failed to work. Schools, hospitals, factories and shops were without power amid the harsh winter weather.
Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir told local media that engineers were working to restore power and tried to reassure the nation that power would be fully restored within the next 12 hours.
The minister said electricity usage typically goes down overnight during winter — unlike summer months when Pakistanis turn to air conditioning, seeking a respite from the heat.
“As an economic measure, we temporarily shut down our power generation systems” Sunday night, Dastgir said. When engineers tried to turn the systems back on, a “fluctuation in voltage” was observed, which “forced engineers to shut down the power grid” stations one by one.
Before midnight, power was back in Karachi, the country’s largest city, and in many other major cities including Rawalpindi, Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province. In Lahore, a closing notice was posted on the Orange Line metro stations, with rail workers guarding the sites and trains. It was unknown when the metro system would be restored.