Pakistan blackout cuts the lights for 230M people: World in Photos


World in Photos: Pakistan’s blackout — when the lights go out in a nation of 230 million people

It’s hard to imagine a nationwide power outage when the nation in question is home to more than 200 million people, and photography of blackouts can be challenging, for obvious reasons. That said, this collection of photos provides a good idea of what the people of Pakistan have been enduring this week — after a breakdown in the power grid triggered a nationwide electricity outage.

It’s the second major outage Pakistan has suffered in the past three months.

Much of the country — including the capital, Islamabad, and the country’s largest city, Karachi — woke Monday to find the power out, internet and mobile phone services down, water pumps shut off, and so forth. Businesses closed; hospitals were forced to postpone surgeries. The outage occurred on a winter’s day — still warm by the standards of American winters, but for Pakistanis a very cold low temperature in the mid-30s.

This edition of “World in Photos” shows what life looked like in this large-scale blackout — for students in their dark classrooms in Rawalpindi, vendors warming themselves over a bonfire in Muzafarrabad and shopkeepers in Islamabad relying on their mobile phones for light. You can also see what a major South Asian metropolis — normally brightly lit at all hours — looked like with the power out.


The lights came back on in the major cities Tuesday, but officials warned that the country’s aging electricity network may take additional hits if repairs and upgrades are not forthcoming — and it doesn’t appear they are. Pakistan is facing an economic crisis, and these are infrastructure costs that the country cannot currently afford.

For the moment, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has promised an investigation — and said this cannot happen again. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s leaders have made that vow before.

  • Tom Nagorski
    Tom Nagorski

    Global Editor

    Tom Nagorski is the global editor at Grid, where he oversees our coverage of global security, U.S.-China relations, migration trends, global economics and U.S. foreign policy.

  • Mariana Labbate
    Mariana Labbate

    Global Editorial Assistant

    Mariana Labbate is the editorial assistant for Grid's Global team.