Pakistan Suffers Widespread Power Outages Amidst Financial Crisis

By R Umaima Ahmed

Pakistan experienced widespread power outages on January 23, 2023, that lasted up to 15 hours in some areas and almost 24 hours in others, affecting millions. Homes, hospitals, and industries were operating at limited capacity or shut down completely. All commercial activities were disrupted during the day as the outages crippled mobile services and the internet. Major cities such as the capital Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi were plunged into darkness as the sun went down. Although electricity was restored in some regions within a few hours, the rest of the country resumed normal operations later in the evening.

A system failure

On January 3, 2023, the government mandated early closing for malls and markets at 8:30 pm to reduce electricity consumption, a plan which was expected to save the country about PKR 62 billion (equivalent to USD 380 million). In the early hours of Monday, January 23, the electricity was turned off during low usage hours overnight for conservation purposes, but the technicians were unable to boot the system up at daybreak. The Ministry of Energy reported that the National Grid’s system frequency dropped at 7:34 am, leading to a nationwide power failure.

Social activist Siraj Noorani tweeted:

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Train services were disrupted in some areas, as journalist Chaudhary Parvez noted:

Minister of Energy Khurram Dastagir tweeted the progress of the restoration work:

The Minister announced in the late evening of January 23rd that electricity had been restored in most parts of the country. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered an investigation to uncover the cause of the power outage.

The minister suggested that foreign involvement may have been a factor in the incident during his remarks about the investigation.

In addition to other services, internet connectivity was also unstable., an internet-access advocacy group, reported via a tweet based on network data:

Blackouts and the economic crisis

Pakistan has suffered two significant blackouts in recent years — a nine-hour blackout in 2018 and an 18-hour blackout in major cities in 2021. Such crises not only affect daily life, but also the economy — the most recent incident resulted in an estimated loss of PKR 100 billion (equivalent to USD 380 million). The country is currently facing a major economic crisis, with citizens facing rising food prices and inflation and declining foreign currency reserves, hindering imports.

Amidst the darkness, netizens turned to sarcasm and jokes to get through the testing times, resulting in lots of memes on Twitter. Imran Usafzai from Islamabad accused the Pakistan Prime Minister of mishandling the situation:

RJ Sabah Bano Malik quipped about her unfortunate experience during the outage:

Zain Ali mentioned that the power outage caught everybody by surprise:

Hey, why is it so dark everywhere?

User Sam shine joked about how people were still using Twitter during the power cut:

Expat Pakistani Hussain Maqbool Ahmed shared an empty screen:


Source: Global Voices

R Umaima Ahmed is a journalist by profession. Also a member of Bargaad’s steering committee on education for minorities and was regional gate keeper of Punjab in Network of Women for Journalists for Digital Rights Foundation. Activist for Digital, Minorities, Animals and Transgender Rights. I write on issues related to these matters. Ive traveled and spent time abroad and now residing in Lahore trying to make a difference in the life of marginalised communities.

Image: A wind power generation plant located in Thatta District, Pakistan. Wind energy accounts for only around 6% of the total electricity production in the country. Image via Flickr by Asian Development Bank. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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