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Energy-saving move backfires in Pakistan

by The Associated Press | January 24, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Motorcyclists and car drive on through a market where some shopkeepers use generators for electricity during a national-wide power breakdown, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power Monday as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government's handling of the country's economic crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Most of Pakistan was left without power Monday as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government's handling of the country's economic crisis.

It all started when electricity was turned off during low usage hours overnight to conserve fuel across the country, officials said, leaving technicians unable to boot up the system after daybreak. The outage was reminiscent of a massive blackout in January 2021, attributed at the time to a technical fault in Pakistan's power generation and distribution system.

Many major cities, including the capital of Islamabad, and remote towns and villages across Pakistan were without electricity for more than 12 hours. As the electricity failure continued into Monday night, authorities deployed additional police at markets around the country to provide security.

Officials announced late Monday power was restored in many cities, 15 hours after the outage was reported.

Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir told local media that engineers were working to restore power across the country and tried to reassure the nation that power would be fully restored within the next 12 hours.

According to the minister, electricity usage typically goes down overnight during winter -- unlike summer months when Pakistanis turn to air conditioning, seeking a respite from the heat.

Dastgir insisted the outage did not constitute a major crisis and that electricity was being restored in phases.

photo A shopkeeper use a battery light at his shop during a national-wide power breakdown, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power Monday as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government's handling of the country's economic crisis. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
photo People visit a market, where some shopkeeper are using generators for electricity during a national-wide power breakdown, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power Monday as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government's handling of the country's economic crisis. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
photo A shopkeeper use a battery light at his mobile selling shop to deal customers during a national-wide power breakdown, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power Monday as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government's handling of the country's economic crisis. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
photo Shopkeepers and workers wait for electric power at a market following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
photo A worker of the Orange Line metro train stands next to a closing notice board at a station following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
photo A worker of the Orange Line metro train stands at a station which is closed following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
photo Workers wait for electricity outside their workshop following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
photo An Orange Line metro train is parked at a station following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
photo Workers wait for electricity outside their workshop following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the crisis. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

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