Lights out in Pakistan as energy-saving move backfires

Jan 23, 2023, 1:14 AM | Updated: 9:48 pm
Shopkeepers and workers wait for electric power at a market following a power breakdown across the ...

Shopkeepers and workers wait for electric power at a market following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning 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 crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

(AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — 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 in this country 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 across the country and tried to reassure the nation that power would be fully restored within the next 12 hours.

According to the minister, 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.

Dastgir insisted the outage did not constitute a major crisis and that electricity was being restored in phases. In many places and key businesses and institutions, including hospitals, military and government facilities, backup generators kicked in.

By late afternoon Monday, Dastgir told reporters at another press conference that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered a probe into the outage.

“We are hoping that the supply of electricity will be fully restored tonight,” he said.

Before midnight, power was back in Karachi, the country’s largest city and economic hub, 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 parked on the rails. It was unknown when the metro system would be restored.

Imran Rana, a spokesperson for Karachi’s power supply company, said the government’s priority was to restore power first to strategic facilities, including hospitals and airports.

Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org said network data showed a significant decline in internet access in Pakistan that was attributed to the power outage. It said metrics indicated that connectivity was at 60% of ordinary levels as many users struggled to get online Monday.

Pakistan gets at least 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, while nearly 27% of the electricity is generated by hydropower. The contribution of nuclear and solar power to the nation’s grid is about 10%.

Pakistan is grappling with one of the country’s worst economic crisis in recent years amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves. That has compelled the government to order shopping malls and markets closed by 8:30 p.m. to conserve energy.

Talks are underway with the International Monetary Fund to soften some conditions on Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout, which the government thinks will trigger further inflation hikes. The IMF released the last crucial tranche of $1.1 billion to Islamabad in August.

Since then, discussions between the two parties have oscillated due to Pakistan’s reluctance to impose new tax measures.

___

Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Denmark Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Jakob Ellemann-Jensen arrives to atten...
Associated Press

Denmark’s defense minister takes sick leave after checkup

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s defense minister has taken a leave of absence for an undetermined period of time after he felt unwell and went to a Copenhagen hospital for a medical checkup last week. The 49-year-old Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, who is also deputy prime minister, heads the Liberals that are part of Denmark’s governing three-party […]
3 hours ago
Associated Press

Japan games maker Nintendo’s profit slips amid chips crunch

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese video game maker Nintendo recorded a slight drop in in profit in April to December as it maintained strong sales of its Switch console games. Nintendo Co.’s net profit in the first nine months of the fiscal year through March was 346 billion yen ($2.6 billion), down 5.8% from 367 billion […]
3 hours ago
A computer screen displays a notice blocking the Wikipedia website through an online news site in I...
Associated Press

Wikipedia again up and running as Pakistan lifts ban on site

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan lifted its ban on Wikipedia services before dawn Tuesday, after the country’s media regulator blocked the site last week for not removing purportedly blasphemous content, claiming it hurts the sentiments of Muslims. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the unblocking late on Monday, according to a government statement. The site was blocked […]
3 hours ago
A woman walks in front of SoftBank store in Ginza shopping district in Tokyo, Jan. 20, 2020. Japane...
Associated Press

Japan’s SoftBank logs $5.9B loss as tech investments tumble

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese investor SoftBank Group reported Tuesday that it sank into a deep loss for the October-December quarter, slammed by the global plunge in technology shares. SoftBank Group Corp. racked up a 783 billion yen ($5.9 billion) loss for the fiscal third quarter, a reversal from the 29 billion yen profit recorded the […]
3 hours ago
FILE - A logo of BP is seen at a gas station in London, on Nov. 1, 2022. British energy company BP ...
Associated Press

UK energy company BP’s profits double to $27.7 billion

LONDON (AP) — British energy firm BP reported record annual earnings on Tuesday, fueling demands that the U.K. government boost taxes for companies benefiting from the high price of oil and natural gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. London-based BP said underlying replacement cost profit, which excludes one-time items and fluctuations in the value of […]
3 hours ago
FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Se...
Associated Press

Boeing plans to cut about 2,000 finance and HR jobs in 2023

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing plans to make staffing cuts in the aerospace company’s finance and human resources departments in 2023, with a loss of around 2,000 jobs, the company said. “We expect about 2,000 reductions primarily in Finance and HR through a combination of attrition and layoffs,” Boeing said in a statement Monday. “While no […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Lights out in Pakistan as energy-saving move backfires