On the 23rd of January this year, all of Pakistan was plunged into darkness with a massive power-outage taking place all over the country. Four months down the line, while fragments of information have become available, a full picture of how such a major breakdown took place has still not become clear.
In a recent meeting, the Senate's Standing Committee on Power voiced serious concerns over the Power Division's performance after the investigation into the January '23 blackout was not completed within the three-month timeframe.
Matters within the standing committee grew particularly tense when the committee's chairman, Senator Saifullah Abro, threatened to involve the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate irregularities in contracts.
The committee meeting highlighted the delayed investigation and raised doubts about the truth coming to light within the current circumstances. Chairman Abro suggested that the investigation of corruption in the contracts should be handed over to NAB and FIA.
During the committee briefing by officials from the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) regarding the transmission line contract of the Dasu hydropower plant, Chairman Abro criticised NTDC officials for favouring specific contractors by tailoring conditions to their preference before awarding the contract. The committee had previously instructed the removal of two allegedly corrupt deputy managing directors (MDs) from the company, but the Power Division failed to implement the directive.
Senator Abro emphasised that the Power Division must initiate its own investigation to curb corruption within NTDC. Failing that, the committee will write to NAB and FIA to investigate the alleged corruption amounting to millions of rupees.
Regarding the January 23 power blackout, it was revealed that the Federal Cabinet had established four committees to investigate the incident. However, the reports from these committees are still pending and not yet finalised, according to the Additional Secretary of the Power Division.
Senator Asad Junejo questioned the reason for setting up the committees and inquired about the notification regarding their formation.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the delay, Senator Abro noted that the committees were supposed to provide reports within two weeks. However, more than a month and two weeks have passed without any inquiry reports being prepared.
Chairman Abro urged for immediate action and stated that miracles must happen within the Power Division.
The Secretary of the Power Division shared that the blackstart facility from Tarbela, Varsak, and Mangala was not operational during the blackout. Twelve attempts were made to restore the system, which took approximately 12 hours. Kot Addu Power Plant also has black start facility, said Secretary Power Division.