Lights Out: A Struggle for Power in Pakistan

By Moon, Sarah | Harvard International Review, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Lights Out: A Struggle for Power in Pakistan


Moon, Sarah, Harvard International Review


In a time of extreme volatility in Pakistan, it is difficult to find stability in even simple, everyday activities such as flipping a light switch. For years now, Pakistan has been dealing with an electricity shortage that is discouraging the industrial and agricultural sector as well as the populace. Until a viable solution presents itself, the future for Pakistan appears bleak with its buckling economy and displeased population.

This crisis stems from an increased demand for power born out of the country's previous economic growth. The lack of satisfactory planning for energy suppliers to accommodate this new demand, rather than the increase in demand itself, is the source of the problem. Presently, the total gap between electricity supply and demand is over 4,800 MW. As the government continually fails to address this gap between what Pakistanis need and what they are actually getting, the crisis continues to escalate and each day Pakistan descends further into darkness. On average in 2008, the government cut power three hours a day, and in 2010 that average grew to six. In some areas, people have gone up to twenty hours without power in a single day. As with any population deeply dissatisfied with the current state of their country, frustration is being vocalized. In the most heavily affected towns and cities, protests in reaction to the lack of visible action from the government are a daily occurrence. The people of Pakistan are demanding to see change that could eventually alleviate the downward pressure on living standards and the economy.

This energy shortage is not discriminatory in who it affects, and many small to medium-sized industries, as well as the average citizen, are finding it difficult to stay afloat amid the current plight. In order to ensure that they have the energy necessary to sustain them, people and companies must invest in generators. Large industries can handle the extra expense of a power generator, but smaller enterprises cannot and neither can the ordinary citizen. In realizing this, both small industries and citizens are faced with a difficult decision. For industries, this lies in the choice to either shut down entirely or become more cost-effective. One of the easiest ways to do the latter is by slashing employment. While this solution preserves companies' profit ratios, it is certainly not helping Pakistan's floundering economy. For citizens who cannot afford this, the choice is between darkness and thievery; out of desperation, Pakistanis frequently descending to free riding. Most industries that are already struggling are finding it increasingly difficult to manage with the further concern of having electricity stolen through illegal connections. …

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