Electricity Crisis in Pakistan

Posted on January 6, 2009
Filed Under >Jauhar Ismail, Economy & Development
Total Views: 58876


Jauhar Ismail

The latest crisis that has Pakistani’s from all walks of life up in arms is the lack of electrical power throughout the country. While rolling blackouts or load shedding as its locally known has always been a staple of daily life in Pakistan, the problem has become acute in the last couple of years. In the second half of December, the situation got so bad that WAPDA & KESC (power generation entities in Pakistan) resorted to draconian levels of load shedding. The power cuts during this time amounted to 20-22 hours a day in most small cities and even cities like Karachi were seeing 18+ hours of load shedding.

Notwithstanding the systemic issues such as the failure to build new dams and previous Government’s inability to add even a single megawatt of new power to the grid during 9 years of its rule, it seems that the present crisis is a result of bad management and the lack of foresight. The total installed capacity of WAPDA and KESC totals around 19,500 megawatts. Almost two third of this power comes from thermal power plants (fossil fuels), one third is generated by water and about 2% comes from nuclear power plants.

The demand for electricity in Pakistan during the winter months actually goes down and this winter has not been an exception. Throughout the month of December, the electricity consumption in Pakistan hovered around 11,000 MW, down from the peak levels of 17,500 MW seen in summer. This demand was well within the installed capacity of WAPDA & KESC yet they were only generating a meager one third (6500MW) of their maximum capacity during this period leaving a huge gap between supply and demand. Their are two main reasons for this:

1. The water flow from all major dams was halted starting mid December to allow the annual cleaning of canals in January. This action effectively took all the hydro power off line.

2. The thermal power plants were working far below their potential due to the lack of money caused by the circular debt between various government agencies reaching a staggering 400 billion Rupees.

None of these issues could have possibly come as a surprise to the present government yet they choose to do nothing until violent anti government protests erupted in all major cities. A couple of days ago the President of Pakistan finally convened a summit of all stakeholders and since then the situation has improved somewhat but this fiasco provides another example of the misplaced priorities of our democratically elected leaders.

Instead of issuing stamps and coins bearing Benazir’s logo and dedicating existing airports to her name, they should focus on the plight of everyday people and try to make their lives a little bit better. Everyone understands that Pakistan is facing serious problems requiring long term solutions and the present government can’t be expected to make significant headway in the short term, yet there are things where it can make a difference. Eliminating load shedding during the winter months could just be one of them.

Photo Credits: Mona Akmal for title photo

Similar Posts at ATP:

1. What is Wrong with KESC
2. The Daredevil Electricians of Pakistan
3. Harnessing Wind energy in Baldia Town
4. KESC, Karachi and the Power Outages
5. More Crisis in Pakistan – Electricity, Flour, Sugar, Gas – What is the way out?
6. Conservation – bijli bachaao muhim
7. andher nagri

37 Comments on “Electricity Crisis in Pakistan”

  1. Khuram says:
    January 7th, 2009 5:23 am

    Believe me I had not finished my comments when light went out.So I will be very brief now.Three persons are responsible for the agony we are in.Nwaz Sharif for handpicking Pervez Musharaf and Pervez Musharaf for his incompetence and then Mr. Zardari for holding the national priority list upside down.
    (spelling Nwaz is deliberate please)

  2. Maudood says:
    January 7th, 2009 7:44 am

    I think I remember an add from WAPDA which said something like, “Ye load shedding nahee, load sharing hai”, in Zia’s time. When WAPDA was going bankrupt, NS brought in the army to check electricity meters – an implicit recognition that his government had failed. Now, every problem that Pakistan faces is because of Mush, according to NS. Does he think that we have forgotten that for years he sat in the lap of army, which he now holds in great contempt. He is responsible for so much of what is wrong with Pakistan.
    I don’t think that he is mentally capable of untangling complex problems. Is he Pakistan’s Bush? And I have voted for NS in every election since I was 18. Zardari is corrupt, but NS is an idiot!

  3. January 7th, 2009 10:13 am

    Who demanded pakistan and for what?We,our forfathers,were leaving in subcontinent amicably in multicommunal country India,There were total cordiality among all.The Muslim and Hindu politician were being of different thoughts as presently in pakistan and also in India now Bharat,politicians in each country could not reconcile their thoughts,so the people of both countries are suffering.When there are problems with the pakistan goverment[also politicians in government and opposition}they try to divert attention of people of pakistan by exploiting feelings against Bharat or exploit the name of islam.While in Bharat ,as it is multi communal country the government and politician similar to pakistan create many problems like Bombay like incidents and also artificially create hatered among communities of different faith.So untill misunderstandings created by leaders before partition and present leaders of both countries are not removed from the minds of people of both the countries.This should be done by thepeople that in haste decision of partition was wrong .,but amicably.

  4. Babar says:
    January 7th, 2009 12:55 pm

    Jauhar – good summary of the situation. The unfortunate part is that Pakistan has so much potential for green energy but not enough planning and work has been done. For instance, we just had our first wind turbine:

    I’ll cross-post parts of this post at Tawanai.com as well.

  5. Imran says:
    January 7th, 2009 2:42 pm

    Waiting for zarda on dismissal of Zardari

  6. Farooq says:
    January 7th, 2009 3:01 pm

    You are stating a frustration that is widespread but beyond that the technical details are simplistic. It is not simply a case of bad government and even if was it would be the last govt at fault but even that would be simplistic since it’s really about supply and demand and the demand has grown without any growth in supply. And the options to increase supply are very few for Pakistan. So you rant is understandable but not useful.

  7. Umar Akbar says:
    January 7th, 2009 3:20 pm

    Dear Farooq,

    Reference your post: ‘It is not simply a case of bad government and even if was it would be the last govt at fault but even that would be simplistic since it

  8. January 7th, 2009 3:51 pm

    It seems that the energy crisis is crossing the world at present … Eastern Europe is facing difficulties as well. Load shedding is a regular feature of life in Africa.

    I suspect that outside of North America and Japan, most countries may have to face this problem in the future to some degree or other.

  9. readinglord says:
    January 7th, 2009 7:20 pm

    I think all this crisis of power shortage is due to the ‘nahoosat’ of the name ‘Parwez’. We had never heard the word ‘load shedding’ during pre-WAPDA days. It is the corrupt WAPDA coupled with corrupt politicians that is root cause of this problem. I bet you stop free use or rather loot of energy by WAPDA personnel themselves their will be no load-shedding at all.

  10. Aamir Al says:
    January 8th, 2009 7:04 pm

    Murtad King:

    How does it automatically make the other 9 Pakistanis ?

  11. Abdul Hai says:
    January 8th, 2009 10:18 pm

    AQKhan and Electricity Shortage

    The average Pakistani has been hoodwinked by the media and the politicians about the contribution of Abdul Qadeer Khan to the Pakistan. He is the metallurgist who stole plans from Holland and were sucessful in getting a nuclear bomb made in Pakistan. The so called first Muslim nuclear bomb. In the process he also transmitted bomb making techniques to rogue states Nrth Korea and Libya for personal gain. He lived lavishly in Islamabad. All the material for his house onstruction was imported from overseas.

    What the average person in Pakistan does not know of the price paid by Pakistanis for this bomb. Due to this bomb making aventure all civilian nuclear power plant construction in Pakistan stopped since 1979. Pakistan was left with a single civilan commercial nuclear power plant in Karachi with a meagre capacity of 150 MW. The west refused to provide nuclear technology to Pakistan. Pakistani scientists and enginees trained for nuclear power were frustated and left Pakistan.

    In contrast, South Korea decided to go for civilan nuclear power and since 1979, has built 18 nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of over 20000 MW. This enabled South Korea to use the electrical energy for productive use. South Korea is considered a newly developed nation with 100 percent literacy, exporting cars, color TVs, and computers. South Korea is militarily also very strong and build a bomb any time within a matter of months since it has the infrastructure.

    Pakistan on the other hand is left with a traitor Abdul Qadeer Khan who is providing trade secrets to the media. The average man is suffereing the electrical power shortage in the form of load shedding. The industry is running under capacity due to load shedding. Inspite of a talented pool of engineers and scientists, the international companies have shied away from investing in Pakistan.

    Thank you AQ Khan for making all this happen.

  12. auk says:
    January 8th, 2009 11:36 pm

    Abdul Hai Sahab, Your blaming AQ Khan for the power crisis in Pakistan is totally misplaced. AQ Khan is not the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear policy, he just implemented what the politicians sought out to do. It was Bhutto who decided to go nuclear and brought in AQ KHan after India went nuclear in 1974. All subsequent govts including military and political backed this policy. Pakistan does have a peaceful nuclear program as well, and they have commissioned atleast 2 nuclear power plants of 350 MW each. More are on the way, though it can be argued that this program could have been at a more advanced stage if we hadn’t gone nuclear.
    Our current crisis is more a result of lack of planning and adhocism which is a national virtue and prevalent in every walk of national life. We have repeatedly failed to set aside resources for education, health, and infrastructure development and the mess that we are seeing today is a direct result of all that. As so accurately pointed out by the author here, the previous govt had the fiscal and policy space and the time (over 8 years) to change things, but they did not focus on energy issues. It is also not just electricity now, but a country so rich in natural gas until now is suddenly plagued with gas shortages. With no new projects coming on line in the near future, and the country in an absolute financial mess, this is only bound to worsen in the coming days.

  13. Riaz Haq says:
    January 9th, 2009 11:16 pm

    It is time for Pakistanis to light candles rather than continue to curse the darkness or be selfish by just looking out for themselves by buying diesel generators (for those who can afford it). There are an increasing number of renewable energy options that neighborhoods, communities and towns can explore by pooling their resources to deal with the electricity crisis in an environmentally friendly way.

    To read more, please visit: http://www.riazhaq.com/2008/09/tackling-pakistans-electricity-crisis.html

  14. Riaz Haq says:
    January 9th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Chinese language has the same word for both “problem” and “opportunity”. A good metaphor for professional and entrepreneurial class in Pakistan to turn the electricity crisis into an opportunity for themselves.

    Again, I say “Go green, do good and do well”.


  15. Ajmal Abbasi says:
    January 10th, 2009 7:02 am

    The energy crisis that Pakistan is facing these days is not only because of the futile policies and ignorance of the past governments but also because of the narrow mindedness of our public. Instead of making new dams to fulfill the growing energy needs, our public started the drama of “Opposing Kalabagh Dam” for no valid reasons. No province is going to drown and no province is going to become “Dry” by building this dam. Please stop harming Pakistan for your vested interests and pave the way for the development of new dams including Kalabagh dam. Other wise, get ready for a time when electricity will be just a dream!!!

  16. auk says:
    January 10th, 2009 11:17 am

    Ajmal, you are so right. I once asked an enlightened and educated pathan friend hailing from the Nowshera area about why pathans were opposed to Kalabagh dam. I was told that “the graves of our ancestors will come under water”. Politicians from Sindh will give you similar excuses. I also heard someone say that since it is a federation, we should take everyone along. It looks like in an effort to take everyone along, we are making sure that we doom our future generations.

  17. readinglord says:
    January 13th, 2009 8:50 pm

    I remember some Pathaan friends also used to oppose construction of Warsak Dam even. They would say that it was being constructed only to destroy us as Soviet Union (which had then threatened to target Pakistan in consequence of U-2 incident) would bomb it to create a holocaust for the cities lower down.

  18. Saadia says:
    January 14th, 2009 7:44 am

    Let us all be useful: Load-Shedding: Shed It

  19. March 26th, 2009 1:29 pm

    Pakistan me light ka ye haal hai…

    her insan iski wajah se behal hain…

    abhi to hum jante bhi hain bijli koi chez hai…

    aane wali nasloon ka soocho kya unko pata hoga bijli bhi k ko faal hai…

  20. Aziz Khan says:
    May 14th, 2009 8:18 pm

    Cost of power outage to Pakistan Economy

    Pointing out the obvious problems (that are actually symptoms of underlying issues) is very easy and therefore frequently discussed. Thus, when I read Mr. Burki

  21. Anonymous says:
    June 5th, 2009 8:10 pm

    The power crisis will continue in Pakistan as long as we do not start voting and electing sincere politicians. Take a look at our current Federal Minister for Water & Power.



    December isn’t far away and we shall see whether he solves the problem of electricity or starts giving us another date.

  22. October 1st, 2009 3:16 pm

    this is a good web site and article is also nice. your struggle is absolutely fine. i like your thinking really positive.


  23. muzaffar hussain says:
    February 14th, 2010 9:32 am

    the main cause of shortage of electricity in Pakistan is shortage of generation. after 1990 there is no any power plant is stable is pakistan. and no any enhancment takes place in generating units. other reason of of shortage of electricity is lacking of maintance of electrical machines with in a proper time. so the efficiency of machines are not good due to lacking in maintanance

  24. May 27th, 2010 1:34 pm

    the main problem is that lack of maintanance of electric machines in power plants. if any budget passed for the maintanace of machines whole money goes in black money of minister and partially distributed in other officer ranked personels. why only peoples of pakistan survive from this load sheeding problem why not politicians,b/coz we are wrong we the public of pakistan elect them and send them in assemblies..why the goverment of pakistan is still not serious on thar coal power plant and dams must be build so hydro power plants must created on dams..wind power plants must createn in coastal areas to minimize the energy and power problems..goverment of pakistan will not do so b/coz whole the money passed in budget for energy and power goes in curruption, no one here who take strong action on this serious issue which we the common public of pakistan facing…Allah Hafiz

  25. mahwish says:
    June 16th, 2010 6:20 am

    itna fazool tim nae ha hmare pass is ko parhne k lie

  26. muqaddas says:
    June 16th, 2010 6:24 am

    hi ye ghareeb awam n zalam hukmran ………………………………. PLZ GOD MERCY ON US

  27. alia says:
    September 24th, 2010 12:52 pm

    i think you write well and give good suggesions i am also working on this topic and it will help me .thanks kindly write on what are the energy crisis impacts on community?

  28. fayaz samo says:
    October 1st, 2010 4:22 am

    yar i need to make funny speech on the topic ” we a nuclear power, with no electric power” so if u hv any funny smss on this or jokes do share here or on ma yahoo id or on ma no 0332-2720710

  29. M.AKRAM NIAZI says:
    October 30th, 2010 4:23 am

    NWFP and Sindh are responsible for Shortage of Electricity and water in Pakistan.
    Disease of Provincialism in Politicians of NWFP and Sindh is mainly responsible for power shortage mayhem and the resultant chaos in the society due to tormenting blackouts and long power outrages.
    Importance of Electricity Versus Wastage of Water for Feudals.
    Why opposition on generation of electricity by Kalabagh Dam in which no water is wasted but provide option of safe storage of water for future use. Electricity is the need of each and every minute and moment of human life, people can not tolerate outage of electricity for one hour while agriculture land can tolerate need of water even many weeks, but why importance to agriculture of few feudals and no importance to electricity which is the need of each and every citizens
    • Children weeps in the night due to high temperature and mosquitoes bite due to outage of electricity,
    • Students can not study in night due to outage of electricity.
    • Industry can not run without electricity.
    • Machinery can not run without electricity.
    • Surgeons can not operate without electricity.
    • A patient on life machine can not survive without electricity.
    • Even in agriculture can not use Tubewell without electricity.
    • Fertilizer can not be manufactured without electricity.
    • Pesticide can not be manufactured without electricity.
    • Sugar Mills,Cotton Mills,Flour Mills,Rice Mills can not run without electricity.
    Above points clearly indicates that use of water for generation of electricity is 1000 times better than wastage of water on land or in sea for few feudals, because water wasted in land or sea is not recoverable but water use for generation of electricity in Kalabagh Dam will be available for use for agriculture and Industry as it was suitable before generation of electricity and there will be no wastage of water.

    Sindh,Balochistan and Frontier are against Kalabagh
    because as per Sindh LOGIC Thar Coal is better than Kalabagh as Kalabagh will emmit BLACK SMOKE and Thar Coal will emmit fresh air full of Oxygen.
    And as per Balouchistan Vision GAS and coal extracted from Balouchistan are one of the most clean source of energy and Kalabagh will pollute air and land resouces and people will drown in Kalabagh and no one is dying in the coal caves of Balochistan.
    And as per Frontier wisdom Royalty of Tarballa is so important that Pakistan can be broken for that but Kalabgh dam is not good looking as it is in Punjab.
    All provinces want Provincial autonomy but Punjab should open or close its canals , IIRIGATE ITS LAND AND construct Dams as per desire of other provinces and after asking from
    other provinces Because it is necessary for unity and prosperity of Pakistan as when there will be no agriculture,no electricity and no water then Pakistan will be more united and more prosperous.
    From all above points it is clear that NWFP and Sindh who are opposing the generation of electricity and preservation and safe storage of water in Kalabagh dam are criminals of humanity as well as of World.

  30. Adnan says:
    June 8th, 2011 12:07 pm

    Wind turbine and solar panel energy is the solution of power crises in Pakistan. Wind turbine can efficiently generate electricity in coastal area of Sindh & Balochistan. We can generate more than 10,000 MV electricity from this source. Solar panel energy can use in interior Sindh and southern Punjab to generate electricity, where sun remains shiny through out the year. Peoples can individually generate electricity for themselves, to install wind turbine and solar panel on there home roofs .

  31. Bangash says:
    June 9th, 2011 2:06 am


    well if Islamabad paid the hydro royalties to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on time and fully, rather than in patches or sometimes not at all in last 35 years, then KP would have been amenable to more dams.

    I like Mr Fayaz Samo remark about Pakistan being nuclear power with no electricity, it shows us the harm that total focus on military has brought to Pakistan.

  32. MQ says:
    June 9th, 2011 4:12 am
  33. Adnan says:
    June 11th, 2011 7:59 pm

    The solutions of Electricity Crisis in Pakistan are
    (1) Build Bhasha & other Dams soon as soon possible. Use of oil and gas is not suitable for electricity generation because its high cost. Hydro electricity is the cheapest source of energy.
    (2) Wind Turbines must be install in coastal area of Sindh and Balochistan.
    (3) Wind Turbines and solar panels must be use on individuals level on their house roofs. So they can generate own electricity for themselves. Manufactures must prepare Wind Turbines locally on commercial basis. So can every body can use its.

  34. Qaisar says:
    June 13th, 2011 9:50 pm

    I am really surprised that why people paying electricity bills who had no electricity 22 hours a day. They also don’t come out and even think to raise their voice. I think the people of Pakistan deserve to be treated like this by the politicians. It’s funny to wait for bill sitting without electricity.

  35. Yousuf says:
    July 26th, 2011 9:34 pm

    I don’t know why KESC in debts with WAPDA while KESC collecting huge amount from people of karachi charging high amount electricity bills.

  36. August 24th, 2011 11:36 pm

    I am agreed with the statement of Mr. Qaiser that why pakistani people pay bill while there is no electricity in the country, my additional statement is that Pakistan should be hand over to America or any other European country as all of our politicians are slaves of America, they can make all things better and can solve all of our country problems.

  37. Urdu Poet says:
    October 31st, 2011 10:35 pm

    Energy problems in Pakistan can be solved by an honest new administration which is not corrupt…

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