The night of January 9, 2021, brought the largest power blackout Pakistan has ever experienced, plunging 200 million people into the dark. That is 90% of the entire country’s population.
Power outages are not uncommon in the country. During the peak demand season, the transmission and distribution capacity leads to a 3000 MW deficit, which leads to 8 to 12 hours of power outages in urban areas and up to 18 hours in rural areas.
Despite the small but regular power outages that have been occurring daily throughout the last decade, the blackout of January 9 was by far the most enormous. It came as a surprise to the citizens but despite that, Pakistanis proved that they’re unmoved even in the dullest of times.
The government did pull up the Tarbela Dam backup and shifted the nation’s power source there while looking for the cause of the problem. Power was back on by Sunday morning, but it has still been fluctuating all across the country, characterized by random disappearances for an unknown amount of time.
Power Blackout of 2015
The blackout of January 9 isn’t the only power blackout the country has experienced. On January 24th, 2015, the country had gone through a similar massive blackout, though the scale wasn’t as large as the recent one.
In an attempt to draw attention to themselves, the Rebels of Balochistan went to town on the transmission towers on a cold Saturday night in Naseerabad, Balochistan. It wasn’t the first attempt, but it was the most successful one.
Many critics saw this as proof of the vulnerability of Pakistan’s transmission grid.
The power was back on in some major cities like Islamabad and Karachi by Sunday night, but most of the rural areas and other cities continued to face some dark times for the next few days.
The acting party of the time made promises to fix the power grid, but national issues like debt caused the plans to fall through.
Conspiracy Theories and More!
The people of Pakistan handled this power blackout a lot better than the previous one.
The unknown cause of the blackout gave rise to many speculations and conspiracy theories. Pakistanis took to Twitter and Facebook and gave birth to 50 million memes in just 30 minutes of the outage.
Most of the theories ran around Imran Khan and his Naya Pakistan. Some even hinted at the chance of waking up to Ghazwa-e-Hind.
Let us take you on a ride on what went through the people’s minds amidst the dark hours.
Rebels of Hazara Community
The past week saw another side of Imran Khan as he refused to visit the Hazaras’ mourners in Balochistan.
Hazaras are an ethnic group native to Afghanistan but have a significant number in Balochistan, Pakistan. The majority of the group are Shia and have continuously been targeted and persecuted for their religious affiliation.
The recent attack on the miners in Mach ignited a rebellion in the Hazara Community. They refused to bury the dead until the PM visited them for an agreement. The refusal of IK’s visit caused a significant backlash from Pakistan’s youth as they sat in disappointment.
In light of this tragic incident, many people theorized whether the Hazaras in Balochistan were the ones who attacked the power grid to rebel against the government. This is just a theory by many citizens and isn’t backed by solid proof.
Mere Azeez Hamwatano
I think this was by far my most favorite theory. It revolved around a possible military coup that was taking place in the curious heads of the Pakistanis who sat for hours in darkness.
But how does mere azeez hamwatano fit in the context? Let me give you some background.
It was the year 1977 when General Zia-ul-Haq declared Martial Law in the state of Pakistan and established himself as the Head of State. Apparently, on that night, followers of Zia shut down Pakistan’s power, grid and the radios ran the announcement of Zia’s Military Regime. The statement began with, “Mere Azeez Hamwatano.”
Well, it took me a while to get this one too.
The concept of a war between India and Pakistan has been popular since the beginning of 2020. The cursed year’s start brought forward many tensions between the two countries, and the speculations of tipping into war have been recognizable.
The sudden plunge of the entire country into darkness made the postulation of war very easy. Many people made jokes about waking up in Delhi, Pakistan. It’s safe to assume that Pakistan always won in these theories, for obvious reasons.
IK’s Naya Pakistan
Looking at a much more humorous perspective, we saw many jabs at IK’s Naya Pakistan.
Someone said that it’s the first Prime Minister of Pakistan who has introduced a “dark mode” for the country.
Another jab was at how IK has been finding it difficult to run the country, and so he consulted his “IT Specialists”, who recommended him to turn off the country and turn it on again for smooth running.
Someone even made a joke about the prime minister’s likely possibility of forgetting to pay the electricity bills which ultimately resulted in the power being cut off.
Even though it should have been a time of despair, Pakistanis proved that silver linings could be found in the darkest of clouds. They kept the entire process humorous and didn’t let themselves get scared of the unknown. Kudos to the spirit of this nation!
Live Wire or Life Wire? A Point to Ponder!
We live in a world where all our tasks are majorly dependent on power and electricity. The blackout just made that concept more concrete.
The recent event should have given rise to an important question: Can we live without power?
In the light of the blackout, it was evident that people cared more about the batteries of their phones and laptops, their Wi-Fi connections, and the running of other eclectic devices rather than showing concern about a possible war or military coup that could’ve taken place.
Covid-19 made the use of technology more ingrained since we had to shift everything online. From education to businesses to work, the world now pretty much operates on a laptop or mobile phone’s tiny screen.
The reality of these facts is that a life without technology and power is out of the question, utterly unimaginable.
As I sit in front of my electric heater, typing on my electric device in the light provided by electric lights, I hope we never have to face a blackout again!