Power breakdown: Something being kept secret: Senate panel

By Israr Khan
February 08, 2023

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Monday questioned the non serious attitude of the Power Division in investigating the recent countrywide power blackout, saying it seemed the division was hiding something.


Soon after the power breakdown on January 23, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had ordered an inquiry into the matter and formed a special committee, asking it to submit its report in a week but no report has been furnished in two weeks.

If the Power Division after two weeks could not complete the probe, it indicated that it was hiding something, the Senate Standing Committee on Power, which met here on Tuesday with Senator Saifullah Abro in the chair, said.

Also, in a recent cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had expressed anger over the Power Division’s poor response. The division also probed the October 2022 breakdown and it was found that the blackout was caused by the use of old conductors that shut down the nuclear power plants. Even, the result of that inquiry was neither shared nor briefed to the cabinet.

The committee expressed its no-trust in the inquiry committee that the prime minister had constituted to ascertain the causes of power breakdown in the country, fix responsibility and recommend remedial measures. The chairman National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) said the authority also held a meeting on this issue to analyse the root cause of power breakdown. The Nepra is probing why isolation was not done at the time of breakdown and why North and South systems were not separated at the time of breakdown. He said power restoration was a matter of four hours, but it took 48 hours. He informed the committee that after the 2021 blackout, the Nepra had asked the NTDC to do a study through foreign energy experts to avoid any such occurrence in the future, but it ignored the advice and did not conduct the study.

The panel directed the Power Division to submit the report to it as soon as possible. The Power Division additional secretary said they were working on it and the report had not been finalised till now.

Senator Fida Muhammad wondered if the issue was so unimportant that weeks had passed and no report had been finalised. He advised the committee to hear the case in the presence of federal minister for power, federal secretary and NTDC MD. The chairman said that since the report was not finalised in two weeks, it indicated that something was being kept secret.

The committee was informed that the Tarbela Power House failed seven times in the process of restoring electricity. An NTDC official said the black start facility was available at Tarbela, Mangla, Warsak and Uch power plants. Also at Kotri, Shahdara and Faisalabad, the black start facility was available, but these plants were already closed.

It was stated that the inquiry committee was working under Musadik Malik. The chairman said he was a busy person. The committee directed that a departmental inquiry be conducted and preliminary report be submitted to the committee within a week. The committee also directed removing the NTDC deputy managers from their posts with an immediate effect.

The chairman, while pointing to officials of the Power Division, said the power sector had been ruined and asked them what else they wanted. “Tell the IMF team that you have destroyed the sector.”

K-Electric CEO Moonis Alvi once again did not attend the committee meeting as he was out of the country. On being asked by the panel, K-Electric representatives informed that Alvi would come back on February 13. If the CEO came, the meeting would be held on February 14, the chairman said.