Power was restored in most areas by late Monday, and people had become accustomed to periodic power cuts – known as blackouts – as fuel shortages became a major problem. Twice before, in 2015 and 2021, similar blackouts occurred across the country. But the magnitude of this came as a surprise. Hospitals were left in the dark for hours, textile factories were closed, and people passed gas stations to buy fuel for generators. Cell phone communication was restricted in many areas.
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“The loss of goods has been happening for two or three hours a day, but I have never seen a 24-hour loss like this,” Omar Salim, a shopkeeper in Karachi, told Dunya TV. He said the current government promised to deal with the economic problems in the country but it has gotten worse.
“No power, no gas, no jobs, people waiting in long queues for flour trucks, inflation is higher than ever,” he said. “It seems like we’re living in the stone age.”
Liaqat Ali, 50, a garage mechanic in the metropolis, said he used his small generator until he ran out of fuel but had no money to buy another. Then he turned on his flashlight to fix the engines of customers’ cars in the evening until he died himself.
“We’re already struggling to keep our business going with power cuts every day, but when the power goes out for 20 hours and we have to close, it ruins everything,” Ali told The Washington Post. “For poor people like me, life has become difficult because of corrupt rulers and politicians. They talk about improving things, but they don’t do anything for the common people.”
The government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who took office in April after then-Prime Minister Imran Khan was forced out of parliament, has been struggling with the country’s worst financial crisis for years. Experts have warned that the government is on the verge of defaulting on its foreign debt.
“I want to express my sorrow for the disruption our citizens faced yesterday due to the power outage. At my command, an investigation is underway to find out the reasons behind the power outage. The position will be fixed,” Sharif tweeted the second.
The rapid problem of lack of oil and energy consumption is a particularly visible result of a large and complex problem with many moving parts. Pakistan’s government is trying to meet the needs of a large and poor country while under intense pressure from the outside world to pay off long-standing debts and to take unpopular austerity measures to end the debt from the International Monetary Fund, which is now overdue.
Currently, the Pakistani rupee has fallen to 230 against the dollar, and the country’s foreign reserves have shrunk by 50 percent in the past year. Experts say it is about to pay for another month of oil and electricity from abroad. Inflation is rising at unprecedented rates in the past year, hitting oil and staple foods such as flour, rice and sugar particularly hard.
“Pakistan’s economy is very difficult. It has reached a very dangerous level,” said economist Zubair Khan on Geo News TV on Tuesday. “The power cut shows this. Now we see the effects of the financial crisis every day. Pakistan should take economic decisions seriously. It needs to get its finances in order and it needs to stop putting politics first. “
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As public frustration and concern spread on Monday, officials said they were working hard to restore power, but offered different reasons for the disaster. Some company officials criticized each other for not anticipating power outages or delaying repairs to the power plant.
Officials said the recent order to close markets and restaurants in the evening was expected to save the country about $273 million in electricity, but experts said the money fell far short of what was needed and some business owners rejected the plan. Officials also said Sharif had ordered all government departments to reduce electricity consumption by 30 percent.
However, the government has refused to go too far with new elections scheduled for the end of this year. Khan, a popular leader with a large following, has held large public rallies in recent months. He narrowly escaped assassination in early November and has criticized Sharif’s government as corrupt and incompetent.
“We want the government to go. The prices were high when Imran Khan was here, but now they are much higher,” Samia Khan, a domestic worker in Peshawar, a city in northwestern Pakistan, told Bol TV. On Monday, she said, “the electricity went out when my children were getting ready for school, and [the lights] he did not return until midnight. I have to cook and clean in the dark, and the electricity and gas bills are skyrocketing. The situation is getting worse every day.”
The blackout started at 7:30 on Monday morning in Sindh and Baluchistan, and by 200 am it had reached all parts of the country. By evening, government officials announced that power had been restored in many cities but not across the country. Many areas in the country were without electricity for 12 hours.
According to some reports, the outage was due to an energy-saving measure to reduce power on Sunday night, which made it difficult to restart the system on Monday morning. Some say the poor quality of the old transmission equipment.