Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan supervising the situation as Pakistan plunged into complete darkness after a massive power breakdown today. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Electricity has been restored in much of Pakistan on Sunday, a few hours after a massive power breakdown that plunged the entire country into darkness.

Power is back on in most of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, and a few areas of Karachi, but “complete restoration will take a few more hours”, Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan said in a press conference on Sunday morning.

The country experienced a major power collapse after the Guddu power plant developed a fault at 11:41pm on Saturday night, the ministry spokesperson said. The rare blackout began when a 500kv transmission line, carrying electricity from the power plant to the national grid, tripped. The energy minister described the issue as “cascading failure” in one of the power plants. “The fault occurred after the frequency in the national power distribution system suddenly dropped from 50 to zero in less than a second” he said.

Probe ordered

The government has ordered an immediate investigation into the worst blackout in recent years caused by a “technical fault”, said the Ministry of Water and Power. A high-level committee has been formed to examine the reasons behind the breakdown, National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) officials said.

The blackout just before midnight left the citizens stumbling in the dark. The sudden power outage all across the country also fuelled conspiracy theories and speculations on social media.

Many citizens discussed the possibility of a cyber attack on the grid system, likening the situation to the 2015 Ukraine blackout — known as the world’s first successful cyber attack on power grids.

Pakistan’s energy ministry, however, shared hourly updates on its social media pages to keep the citizens informed, urging them “not to panic” and to seek authentic information from official pages.

Reason unknown

The exact reason behind the sudden blackout remains unknown as yet. Due to the emergency situation, all efforts were focused on stabilizing the system to get power back on, the minister said, adding that the reasons will be shared with the public after thorough investigation.

Power outages are common in Pakistan due to the weak, fragile and outdated electricity distribution system. In January 2019, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces faced a major power failure due to glitches at the Guddu thermal power plant.

In May 2018, a widespread breakdown in the NTDC system led to vast power failure in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The country witnessed a massive blackout in 2015 when 80 per cent of the country lost power after an attack on the transmission line.