ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan is experiencing its worst electricity shortages in years, and the signs are everywhere.

Traffic lights have been switched off, making already treacherous roads even more so. Dinner parties often take place by candlelight. And air conditioners and fans are idle as temperatures rise.

"Our lives have been made miserable," Zubaida Bibi, 40, said.

Rising demand and inadequate energy infrastructure in this South Asian nation of 160 million people have precipitated the nationwide electricity outages, fueling protests that have turned violent and helping to sink the economy.

The outages threaten to increase public frustration with Pakistan's young government, which is already facing a challenge from Islamic militancy and is mired in political disputes.

Officials at the Ministry of Water and Power estimate that Pakistan is one-quarter to one-third short of the power it needs.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said the government is committed to resolving the electricity crisis and is aware of people's hardships. He also urged the population to conserve electricity.

To save energy, the government ordered the country to observe daylight saving time at the start of June, shifting clocks forward an hour. This is supposed to save energy because people have more daylight in the evening and do not have to turn on lights.

Daylight saving time was tried about six years ago but was quickly abandoned as many people, especially in rural areas, ignored it.

The government says it will also ask many shops and businesses to close by 9 p.m., though it is unclear whether the rule will be enforced. Government offices are supposed to reduce air-conditioner use, and even billboard lights face restrictions.

Notions such as daylight savings are viewed as Band-Aid solutions in a place where many mark time by calls to prayer from mosques.

And getting compliance may prove difficult in a country with low literacy rates and a lack of information on conservation, said Sultan Hasan, spokesman for the Karachi Electric Supply Co.

In April in Multan, a textile hub where many operate looms out of their homes and routinely go 10 hours a day without power, people attacked the office of the state electricity company, torching a bank and leaving at least 13 people injured.

The government says it has tried to limit the effect on industry. Many large factories are not subject to daytime power cuts, though they must close one day a week.

But the central bank recently said the impact of the power crisis on key industries such as metals, textiles and chemicals was contributing to a slowdown in the economy.

Zubaida Bibi's wages have shrunk because of electricity cuts at the thread manufacturer where she works in Multan. "Now we earn half of what we would earn before," she said.

At the Islamabad-area factory of Shaheen Pipe Industry, which must now close on Mondays, officials said they had to lay off 20 workers and were losing money.

Meanwhile, the new government is pushing ahead with a handful of power projects while pursuing plans for new power plants. Some projects are expected to be ready next year, which could ease the shortage.