Almost the entire country was in the grip of a cold wave on Monday, with a number of cities and towns struck by temperatures ranging between -17C and -21C. The federal capital went through its most uncomfortable day in 46 years as the mercury plunged to three below Celsius.
And even Karachi, known for its mild winters, was not far behind, recording a minimum temperature of six degrees Celsius. The city is likely to face more cold on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A minimum temperature of -2.8C in Islamabad had been recorded in 1984, but the lowest temperature recorded in the city is -3.9C in 1967.
Officials said that the wave was the fallout of extreme cold weather conditions in Europe as cold winds coming from there dry up after crossing the Central Asian region.
These cold and dry winds are also delaying the winter rains as the strong currents push the warm, moist winds rising from the Arabian Sea.
“These systems coming from the northwest last up to five or six days,” Meteorological Department Director Dr Mohammad Hanif said. The Met Office forecast very cold and dry weather for Tuesday in most of the country, with cloudy conditions along with rain and light snowfall over the hills at places across a swathe stretching from Gilgit-Baltistan to Lahore and Sargodha divisions.
“But these are not the regular winter rains. They will only bring light rain because these clouds are part of the westerly wave that has separated from the European system and has reached up to Kashmir,” Dr Hanif said.
The winter rains are likely to begin after mid-January, which will be followed by the Siberian cold wave that brings very cold winds to the whole country.
The lowest temperature recorded on Monday was -15C in Kalat. It was -13C in Quetta, -12C in Skardu, -10C in Parachinar, -7C in Astore, Gupis, -6C in Malamjabba, Drosh and Murree and -5C in Gilgit.
It was the 14th day of a wave of very cold weather in northern Balochistan and Quetta. Meteorological department officials said they had recorded the lowest minimum temperature of -21C at Harboi hill station in Kalat, -17C in Ziarat, Khanozai, Toba Achakzai, Toba Kakari and Darra Kozak and -13C in Pishin and Mastung.
Pipelines burst after water froze and diesel in the fuel tanks of vehicles also froze.
Water overflowed from the sewerage system and froze on the roads. A layer of ice also formed around the walls of water tanks.
The suspension of gas supply and very low pressure increased the hardships of the people and the prices of coal, wood and kerosene skyrocketed.
Harboi, at 8,000-foot altitude, is rich with reserves of juniper forests and wildlife, including leopard, mountain wild goat Markhor, ibex, wolf, fox and wild rabbit. People of the area were forced to leave for warmer places, leaving some men to guard their homes. “People living in Harboi have dug trenches and lit juniper wood to save themselves from the extremely cold weather,” Mehboob Shahwani, a local, said.
He said gas supply to Kalat town was suspended. “Timber is being sold at Rs400 per 40kg and LPG gas at Rs220 per kg, which are unaffordable for the poor,” he said.
An All Parties Action Committee of Kalat called for immediate restoration of gas supply.
The situation in Ziarat, Khanozai, Qila Saifullah, Muslim Bagh, Toba Achakzai, Toba Kakari, Zhob and other areas was also worsening.
Ziarat was facing shortage of gas supply.
Roads and offices in Quetta wore a deserted look. The Met Office said the temperature there might drop to -15C. People of Sariab area blocked the Quetta-Sibi highway in protest against suspension of gas supply.
“Our children and elderly are falling sick because the SSGC has suspended supply to our area that has a large population,” Abdul Rashid told Dawn.