Electricity was restored a couple of hours after passage of 10 pm deadline given by the government – after a more than 16 hours outage due to “technical fault” in national grid on Monday.
A spokesperson for the federal energy ministry said on Tuesday morning that following gradual restoration, electricity in the country had been completely restored following the massive breakdown.
The power outage brought life to a standstill, hampering businesses and normal daily chores as internet and mobile phone service besides flight operations throughout the country disrupted.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered an inquiry into the outage, which began at around 7:30 am.
The power outage also forced banks, hospitals, textile, industries, and commercial and business outlets to close their operations. Even the official activities in the Federal Government Secretariat in Islamabad also remained dormant. The situation also triggered panic buying of diesel by people at petrol pumps in major cities to run their generators.
The outage, which Energy Minister Khurram Dastagir had said was due to a voltage surge, is the second major grid failure in three months, and adds to the blackouts that Pakistan’s populace suffers on an almost-daily basis.
Officials blame the problems on an ageing electricity network, which like much of the national infrastructure, desperately needs an upgrade that the government says it can ill afford.
As evening drew on and homes plunged into dark, the energy minister wrote on Twitter that authorities had started restoring power across the country. Dastgir had told reporters earlier: “We have faced some hurdles but we will overcome these hurdles, and will restore the power.”
“Target is to restore power by 22:00 (10pm) local time but trying to restore much before that,” the minister had told Reuters, but later in the press conference said that the complete restoration would be done by tonight, without specifying the time.
Soon after the power breakdown was reported earlier in the day, Dastgir, told a local news channel that the power generation units are temporarily shut down in winter at night as a measure to save fuel.
“When the systems were turned on at 7:30am this morning one by one, frequency variation was reported in the southern part of the country between Jamshoro and Dadu.”
“There was a fluctuation in voltage and power generating units were shut down one by one due to cascading impact. This is not a major crisis,” said the federal minister.
The minister said that his ministry has started restoring some grid stations in Tarbela and Warsak.
“Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) and some grids of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) have already been restored,” claimed the minister.
In another press conference later, he said that despite the unprecedented voltage fluctuations in the national grid, the transmission system is safe, which will help in the restoration of power.
“Our teams from across the country have not reported any adverse effects of the breakdown on the national transmission system. This will help us when we restore power.”
He said that a working power plant in Uch is providing energy to Sukkur, Naushahro Feroze, Larkana, Khairpur Nathan Shah, and surrounding areas.
So, he said, using the same power plant, the power has been restored in some areas of Balochistan and South Punjab, while the Thar coal facility is providing power to Karachi Electric so that it can restore its functions partially.
About the breakdown in Karachi earlier, he said that the matter in the port city is complicated as it has a complete electric supply system.
“All the officials are trying their level best to restore the system. We faced some difficulties in restoring the hydel power plants. As I had mentioned earlier that the national transmission system was safe, so we need the power to supply electricity further. “
He added that the National Transmission & Despatch Company has been authorised to “use any power plant no matter how expensive it might be to operate them for the restoration of electricity”.
PM’s committee, NEPRA’s notice
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took strict notice of the power outage and ordered constitution of a three-member committee to probe the reason behind the breakdown.
The prime minister also sought a report from the energy minister, a statement from the PM’s Office said.
The prime minister also directed the officials to immediately restore the electricity supply.
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), in a statement, also said that it has taken “serious notice” of the power outage and directed the NTDC to submit a “detailed report”.
The statement also said that the regulator has previously imposed fines on similar outages in 2021 and 2022. It also shared that NEPRA has consistently issued directives and recommendations on tackling such events in future.
INTERNET, MOBILE PHONE SERVICE: Following the prolonged nationwide power breakdown, mobile phone and internet services were affected.
Telecom companies have run out of stored fuel to temporarily run their towers and ensure a smooth service to consumers.
“Mobile network installations are being run on backup power since morning, which cannot work for a long time,” people in the telecom industry said.
In a statement, the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) directed the companies to ensure services by refueling generators at the maximum number of affected sites.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) also informed users that they may face degradation in services due to the electricity outage.
NetBlocks, a global internet monitor, confirmed that their network data showed a significant decline in internet access in Pakistan which was attributed to the power outage across the country.
$70 MILLION LOSS: The textile sector suffered a massive loss amounting to $70 million so far due to the ongoing countrywide breakdown, said a spokesperson of the All-Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA).
He maintained that the massive power failure badly affected industries across the country. The textile sector will have to face losses worth billions of dollars if the situation is not controlled soon, he said.
Markazi Tanzeem Tajran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Secretary General Zahir Shah said that the traders were facing immense difficulties due to the power outage.
Criticising the government for its failure in restoring the electricity despite a span of several hours, he said that industries and petrol pumps in several areas have closed.
In Peshawar, Lahore, and other cities, long queues of vehicles were seen at almost every fuel station due to the shortage of oil amid the countrywide power breakdown.
Petroleum Dealers Association provincial chairman said there was no fuel at 50% of the petrol pumps in Peshawar.
Most of the elective scheduled operations were postponed because of the power outage, however, emergency surgeries were performed at hospitals across the country.
In October last year, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Multan, and Faisalabad were hit by a power outage.
At that time, the power minister said that nearly 8,000 megawatts of power went offline.
Back then, Dastgir had said that the simultaneous faults in two power lines, which had triggered the breakdown, at the same time was concerning for the government. He had also announced that an in-depth inquiry was ordered and promised action.
Timeline of power outages
The country’s generation and distribution network has suffered eight major power breakdowns during the last nine years.
In 2014 and 2017, nationwide blackouts were caused by a fault in Tarbela Power Station while fog, frequency variation and the Guddu Power Plant fault were blamed for breakdowns in 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Every time the incumbent governments announced a “comprehensive probe” and vowed to rectify the issues but nothing has happened despite multiple inquiries.