A country disturbingly used to the menace that is ‘load shedding’, Pakistan has had its share of power
‘outages’ or breakdowns as well. On Saturday night, virtually the whole country went dark once again.
Amidst all kinds of rumors and memes and self-effacing jokes regarding the state of the country’s power
sector, people had to endure more than nine to ten hours – in some cases more – of no electricity.
Thankfully, power was restored to 80 percent of the country by mid-morning Sunday, with some areas
being deprived of the load for short periods, in order to manage the supply better and ensure there was
no repeat of the disaster. But, of course, the chief need now is to understand what happened and what
went wrong. While Energy Minister Omar Ayub told
Various messages, the inquiry that has now been set up is what will hopefully discover the real reason
and help us avoid such situations again. The blackout appears to have been caused by poor
maintenance, technical errors and failure to maintain the power system, or keep in good order the
organizations which run it by ensuring they have long-term, capable officials in charge.
From what we know so far, it appears that the fault which caused the entire system to falter and had a
cascading effect affecting one transmission line after the other, occurred at Guddu in the Kashmore
district of Sindh. The Guddu power station is a vital link to power distribution in the country. There have
been previous faults in this area as well. In 2015, it was said to have been caused by heavy fog which
made transmission lines vulnerable to failure and short-circuiting. This time too there are some experts
who are saying fog and smog were one of the main factors in making transmission lines more vulnerable
to touching each other or to creating short-circuiting, which triggered a failure across the power grid.
Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world which has a national grid connected across the country.
While this is a good thing and extremely useful to the nation, the problem also is that it needs to be
intricately maintained to keep the entire system running and prevent the kind of blackout we saw. Other
investigations are also on.
There is an argument that, while the load on the system has been increased, transmission lines and
other centers have not kept pace with the demand placed by this load. In addition, the fact that LNG-run
plants are not operating in central Punjab – where the load is greatest – because of the government
failure to purchase LNG for some days of January, is being reported as another factor. The issue of LNG
purchase has come up repeatedly both on Geo News and in this newspaper. There have also been
questions about appointments to the DISCOS and to the NTDC, the organization in charge of the
transmission and distribution of power across the country. There needs to be a full and non-political
inquiry into the events which took place so that we can safeguard our system and ensure a fault of this
magnitude which has occurred before is not repeated in the future.