World | Pakistan

Pulling the plug on power crisis in Pakistan

Sizzling summer heat and prolonged power outages have let hell loose on residents of twin cities

  • By Mohammad Ashraf, Correspondent
  • Published: 17:08 August 2, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Supporters of Pakistan Muslim League-N party take part in a rally against the power cuts in Lahore

Karachi Terrorism has taken a backseat in Pakistan.

As the nation continues to face growing US pressure to carry out operations against the Haqqani network, powerless Pakistanis are taking to the streets to protest against the electricity shortage gripping the nation.

The power cut starts exactly an hour after Sehri (dawn meal). With my dry mouth and empty stomach I can only curse the leaders who have made this month a punishment for us

Mohammmad Ali

“Yes, the power crisis is taking its toll and it is clearly visible that it has troubled the government more than any other national issue,” Professor Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a prominent political analyst, said.

Mohammmad Ali, a 38-year teacher born and raised in Rawalpindi, the twin city of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, has never faced such a tough Ramadan. The dry weather because of the delayed monsoon, sizzling heat and prolonged power outages have let hell loose on residents this month.

“The power cut starts exactly an hour after Sehri (dawn meal),” Ali told Gulf News. “With my dry mouth and empty stomach I can only curse the leaders who have made this month a punishment for us,” a Ali said.

As Pakistan is gripped by complex challenges on the internal and external fronts, the current week’s day long power outages have alarmed the government and even the state. In the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtun Khaw provinces people took to the streets to protest against the worst spell of power outages, ransacking public and private properties worth billions of rupees.

The rampage followed a transmission collapse that disrupted an 1,800 megawatt supply from the national distribution capacity last Friday. The technical fault erupted because of a storm that blew down 19 gigantic steel pylons of the national electricity company in Muzaffargarh.

The power crisis compelled President Asif Ali Zardari to hurry an emergency meeting in Islamabad. Zardari warned the authorities to fix the chronic problem at the soonest after the Punjab province, home to the major opposition party, witnessed the worst power situation at a time when Muslims are fasting in Ramadan. The intense summer heat is adding to the dire situation.

The president called off all his fixed meetings as he wanted his party to win the upcoming elections in the Punjab, where the Muslim League of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif rules. “Don’t make it an issue for political mileage,” information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, told the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, at a press conference to explain the electricity fault.

The financial mess at public and private sector companies which ran up a hefty sum of 500 billion rupees in transactions is the root cause of the electricity crisis.

Pakistan State Oil (PSO), the public sector company which supplies bulk of fuel oil to the public and private power generating companies, is trying to recover 225 billion rupees from the defaulting power companies.

The company slashed its supplies to the power companies as it needed to pay up to foreign oil sellers.

“This itself caused almost a 40 per cent fall in generation capacity of thermal power stations,” said Haris Zamir, an economic journalist. A delayed monsoon depleted the hydel power generation as well.

“The supply side of power is fine as we are getting about 11,000 to 12,000 MW in our system and if we fuel all the thermal power stations we could get even more electricity,” said Tahir Bashart Cheema, head of Pakistan’s Energy Management Cell.

The power deficit ranges between 3000 to 5000 MW as against the national demand is about 15000 to 16000 MW. “We need to manage the matter on the demand side,” Cheema said.

Analysts believe that electricity could play a pivotal role in the upcoming elections and could seal the fate of political parties as domestic consumers make the largest percentage of total consumption with 42 per cent.

The share for industrial, agricultural, other government sectors and commercial consumers has been 31 per cent 14.1 per cent, seven per cent and six percent, respectively.

Fired up

21,000 MW of power is total installed capacity

11,000 to 12,000 MW generated

National demand is about 15000 to 16000 MW

Power deficit ranges between 3000 to 5000 MW

Thermal power generates 65 per cent

Hydel power generates 22 per cent

At peak season the current months, hydel power generation rises to 45 per cent.

Gas fired power stations generate nine per cent

Nuclear power stations generate the rest

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