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Pakistan’s prime minister apologizes as the nation recovers from mass power outages

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Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif apologized to the nation Tuesday after a day-long power outage disrupted normal life across the country, leaving millions without power amid harsh winter weather.

Monday’s blackouts swamped schools, factories and shops, and many of Pakistan’s 220 million people were without drinking water, as pumps that powered electricity also failed.

In major businesses and institutions, including major hospitals, military and government facilities, backup generators have started.

Power has mostly been restored, though some parts of the country still experienced power outages on Tuesday.

“On behalf of my government, I would like to express my sincere regret for the inconvenience our citizens suffered due to yesterday’s power outage,” Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Twitter.

“According to my orders, an investigation is underway to find out the reasons for the power outage,” he said, adding that the investigation will reveal who is responsible.

At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir defended the government’s handling of the grid collapse and praised engineers and technicians for their efforts in smoothing out the system. He did not mention the fact that the government’s measure to save energy had backfired.

Authorities turned off electricity during low-use hours Sunday evening to save fuel, according to an energy saving plan. Efforts to restore power early Monday morning resulted in the entire system collapsing.

“Today, at 5:15 a.m., the electricity was fully restored,” Dastgir said on Tuesday, blaming the outage on a technical glitch, but also posing a “remote chance” due to hackers targeting the country’s grid systems.

The minister also expressed his confidence in the three-member Sharif Commission which is expected to complete the preliminary investigation within days. “We will cooperate fully,” he said.

He warned that some areas may still face “routine power outages” this week as Pakistan’s nuclear power plants and coal plants are not yet fully operational.

This outage is reminiscent of the massive power outage in January 2021, which at the time was attributed to a technical failure in the power generation and distribution system in Pakistan.

Pakistan gets at least 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, while approximately 27% of its electricity is generated by hydropower. The contribution of nuclear and solar energy to the national electricity grid is about 10%.

Fawad Chowdhury, a senior leader of the opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf party, on Monday criticized the government for mismanaging the country’s economy and said the outage reflected the government’s incompetence.

Facing one of its worst economic crises in recent years amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves, Pakistan is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund to ease some conditions on a $6 billion bailout.

Sharif’s government says the harsh conditions will lead to higher inflation.

The International Monetary Fund issued the final payment of $1.1 billion to Islamabad in August, but since then, discussions between the two parties have oscillated over Pakistan’s reluctance to introduce new tax measures.

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