Pakistan power cuts emphasize nation’s economic crisis

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

But the measures were too little, too late. On Monday morning, the country’s overloaded electrical system collapsed in rolling waves of blackouts that began in the desert provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh but quickly spread to almost the entire country, including the densely crowded cities of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Power was restored in many areas by late Monday, and residents had long become accustomed to periodic electricity cuts – known as load-shedding – as fuel shortages have become a chronic problem. Twice before, in 2015 and 2021, similar blackouts occurred across the country. But the sheer scale of this one came as a shock. Hospitals were left in the dark for hours, textile factories were closed, and people overran gas stations to buy generator fuel. Mobile phone communications were cut off in many areas.

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“Load carrying is happening two or three times a day, but I have not seen a 24-hour breakdown like this,” Omar Salim, a shopkeeper in Karachi, told Dunya TV news. He said that the government had promised to solve the country’s economic problems, but instead they had worsened.

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

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Liaqat Ali, 50, a garage mechanic in this capital, said he used his small generator until it ran out of fuel but had no money to buy more. Then he turned on his mobile phone flashlight to repair the customers’ car engines in the evening until he finally died too.

“We are already struggling to keep our business going with the daily power cuts, but when the light goes out for 20 hours and we have to stop, it destroys everything,” Ali told the Washington Post. “For poor people like me, life has become bad because of these corrupt rulers and politicians. They talk about fixing things, but they do nothing for the common people.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government, which took office in April after Imran Khan was swept to power in a parliamentary vote, has since been grappling with the country’s worst economic crisis in decades . Experts warn that the government is coming dangerously close to default on its foreign debt.

“I would like to express my sincere regret for the inconvenience our citizens suffered due to yesterday’s power outage. On my orders an investigation is underway to determine the causes of the power failure. Responsibility will be determined,” Sharif tweeted on Tuesday.

The pressing problem of recurring fuel and energy shortages is a particularly visible result of a larger and more complex problem with many moving parts. Pakistani authorities are struggling to meet the basic needs of a large and impoverished nation under heavy foreign pressure to pay off long-standing debts and adopt unpopular austerity measures in exchange for delayed debt relief from the International Monetary Fund. on him now.

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Meanwhile, Pakistan’s rupee has fallen to an all-time low of 230 to the dollar, and the country’s foreign reserves fell by 50 percent last year. Experts say the country has barely enough left to pay for another month’s worth of fuel and energy imports. Inflation has been rising at unprecedented rates of 25 percent over the past year, hitting fuel and food essentials such as flour, rice and sugar particularly hard.

“Pakistan’s economic situation is critical. It has reached a very dangerous point,” said economist Zubair Khan on Geo News TV on Tuesday. “The power cuts reflect that. We are seeing the impact of a fragile economy every day now. Pakistan needs to take economic decisions seriously. He needs better economic management, and he needs to stop prioritizing 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 accident. Some utility officials blamed each other for failing to anticipate the cascading blackout or for delaying necessary repairs to the electric power system.

Officials said the recent order to close markets and restaurants in the evening was expected to save the country about $273 million in electricity output, but experts said that amount fell far short of what was needed. , and some business owners said 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 has been reluctant to take overly drastic measures with new elections planned for later this year. Khan, a popular leader with a large following, has held large public rallies in recent months. He survived an assassination attempt at a rally in early November and the Sharif government has been relentlessly criticized as corrupt and incompetent.

“We want this government to go. Prices were high when Imran Khan was here, but now they are much higher,” Samia Khan, a homemaker in Peshawar, a city in northwestern Pakistan, told Bol TV news. On Monday, she said, “The lights went out when my children were getting ready for school, and [the lights] he didn’t come back until after midnight. I have to cook and clean in the dark, and the electricity and gas bill is getting higher and higher. Things are getting worse every day.”

The collapse of the power system started at 7:30 on Monday morning in Sindh and Baluchistan, and by mid-morning, it had reached every corner of the country. By the evening, officials announced that the power was restored in many cities but not throughout the country. Many areas of the country were without electricity for 12 hours.

According to some reports, the blackout was caused by an energy-saving measure to reduce power on Sunday night, which made it more difficult to restart the system on Monday morning. Others blamed poor conditions in old transmission equipment.



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