Pakistan power cuts emphasize nation’s economic crisis

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ISLAMABAD – Three weeks ago, Pakistani authorities ordered all markets, restaurants and shopping malls to close early, part of an emergency plan to conserve energy as the country of 220 million struggled to make ends meet. overdue payments on energy imports and preventing a perfect economy. collapse.

But the steps are too little, too late. On Monday morning, the country’s overburdened electricity system collapsed in a rolling wave of blackouts that began in the desert provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh but quickly spread to almost the entire country, including many cities of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Power was restored in many areas late Monday, and residents have long grown accustomed to frequent power cuts – known here as load-shedding – as fuel shortages have become a constant problem. Two times before, in 2015 and 2021, similar nationwide blackouts occurred. But its sheer scale is a shock. Hospitals were left in the dark for hours, textile factories were closed, and people overflowed gas stations to buy generator fuel. Cellphone communication was cut off in many places.

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“Loading happens for two or three hours a day, but I have never seen a 24-hour breakdown like this,” Omar Salim, a shopkeeper in Karachi, told Dunya TV news. He said that the government promised to solve the country’s economic problems, but instead it has worsened.

“No power, no gas, no jobs, people waiting in long lines for flour trucks, inflation higher than ever,” he said. “It’s like we’re living in the stone age.”

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Liaqat Ali, 50, a garage mechanic in this capital city, said he used his small generator until he ran out of fuel but had no money to buy it. Then he turned on the flashlight of his cell phone to fix the engine of the customer’s car at night until he also died.

“We’re already struggling to keep our business going with daily power cuts, but if the lights go out for 20 hours and we have to close, it’s going to destroy everything,” Ali told The Washington Post. “For poor people like me, life has become miserable because of these corrupt rulers and politicians. They talk about fixing things, but they do nothing for the common people.

The government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who took office in April after Imran Khan was forced from power in a parliamentary vote, has been struggling since the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. Experts have warned that the government is about to default on foreign debt.

“I want to express my sincere regret for the inconvenience caused to our citizens due to yesterday’s power outage. On my orders an inquiry was made to find out the reasons for the power failure. Responsibility will heal,” Sharif tweeted on Tuesday.

The immediate problem of recurring fuel and energy shortages is a highly visible consequence of a much larger and complex problem with many moving parts. Pakistani authorities are trying to meet the basic needs of a large and poor country while under heavy foreign pressure to pay off long-standing debts and implement unpopular austerity measures instead. to relieve the debt from the International Monetary Fund, which is now delayed.

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Meanwhile, the Pakistani rupee has fallen to a low of 230 against the dollar, and the country’s foreign reserves have declined by 50 percent in the past year. Experts say the country has almost enough left over to cover a month’s worth of fuel and energy imports. Inflation rose to unprecedented rates of 25 percent last year, hitting fuel and essential food items like flour, rice and sugar especially hard.

“Pakistan’s economic situation is critical. It has reached the most dangerous point,” economist Zubair Khan told Geo News TV on Tuesday. “The power cuts show that. We now see the effects of a weak economy every day. Pakistan needs to take economic decisions seriously. It needs better economic management, and it is necessary to stop giving priority to politics.

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As public frustration and concern spread Monday, officials said they were working hard to fully restore power but offered different explanations for the cause of the unprecedented crash. Some utility officials blamed each other for failing to anticipate the impending blackout or for delaying needed repairs to the power system.

Officials said the recent order to close markets and restaurants at night is expected to save the country about $273 million in electrical output, but experts say the amount falls short of what was needed, and some business owners refused the plan. Officials also said that Sharif ordered all government departments to reduce electricity consumption by 30 percent.

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However, the government is reluctant to take more drastic measures in the new elections planned for later this year. Khan, a popular leader with a large following, has held several public rallies in recent months. He survived an assassination attempt at a rally in early November and relentlessly criticized the Sharif government as corrupt and incompetent.

“We want this government to go. The prices were high when Imran Khan was here, but now they are higher,” Samia Khan, a housewife in Peshawar, a city in northwestern Pakistan, told the news on Bol TV. On Monday, he said, “the lights went out when my children were getting ready for school, and [the lights] did not return until after midnight. I have to cook and clean in the dark, and the electricity and gas bills are getting higher and higher. Things are getting worse every day. “

The breakdown of the power system began at 7:30 on Monday morning in Sindh and Baluchistan, and by noon, it had reached all corners of the country. In the evening, officials announced that electricity has been restored in many cities but not in the entire country. Many areas of the country are without electricity for 12 hours.

According to some reports, the blackout came from an energy-saving measure to reduce power on Sunday night, making it difficult to restart the system Monday morning. Some blame the poor condition of the old transmission equipment.



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