What do you do in a country where misery of the people is routine, but that the president notices it as news? Because this is what happened after the latest wave of power riots on January 3 hitting several cities of the country, particularly Faisalabad - the main hub of the textile industry with a concentration of factory labour. People were being forced out of work because of power outage, the so-called load shedding. But an English daily carried a headline on the front-page saying: "The president had taken notice of the issue." How very kind of the president Energy shortage is only one of the several problems the citizen faces in this misgoverned country. Added to it is the high-handedness with which issues are treated. Domestic oil prices, for example, rise as soon as the international oil market goes up. But when they plummet he (the common man) is given no relief. If the money thus saved is used for social benefit in some other form, people could take it. But they know it will merely fuel reckless government spending while the masses toil under burgeoning inflation. Shortages against this background hurt more. The upshot of the public protest last summer when people came out on the street, vandalised property and burnt their electricity bills was a downward adjustment of the bills and outage period. The protest was desperate, partly because of the month of Ramadan when, life in an ascetic mode, people were not in a mood to take the nonsense. So, the lesson that people learned was 'protest tumultuously and be heard'. Typically, the load shedding schedule was resumed as winter approached. But nothing was materially done to alleviate the pressure on the consumer. Decisions taken at Mr Zardari's meeting were announced in a joint press conference held by the Minister for Information Sherry Rahman and Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. They revealed that among other things the problem of circular debt was addressed and some furnace oil would be released to increase power production. These measures would add 1500MW of electricity to the system immediately. However the turmoil in Faisalabad remained unabated and riots continued in different cities of Punjab also. The angry crowd clashed with the police at several places as offices of the Faisalabad Electric Supply Co (FESCO) were gutted. The police had to baton charge and teargas to disperse the masses. There are several issues here. One, it is said that the installed capacity of power generation in the country is over 19000MW as against average demand of about 12000. Apparently, the production is far short of capacity because of a circular debt of around 80 billion rupees that have forced them to cut production causing the shortage. The question is: why is there an enormous circular debt and why is something not being done about it? Why a head has or two have not rolled for this? The central issue in Pakistan's economy is an overspending government. Two, how can this government ask the public to put up with load shedding when the federal ministers and senior government officials are exempted? Recently, in Karachi, one federal minister had his house lit up for three nights on his son's wedding. Three, there is the question of line losses. The trouble is that their credibility gone, endemic corruption has affected the administration's law enforcement capacity. According to one report as much as 35 to 40 percent electricity is lost to theft and technical issues. Four, how do they manage to bring in 1500MW into the system overnight? At least this could be done before the people broke into a riot. Every time the federal minister for water and power goes on air he bemoans the misery of load shedding the people have to go through. What he needs to do is to ensure that the load-shedding regimen is uniformly enforced including official residences for a semblance of credibility. Next, a task force of the three concerned ministries - water and power, oil and gas, finance - needs to focus on the issue immediately for a workable solution before other issues feed into the current crisis. The Pakistani people have shown patience of gods when it comes to tolerating misrule. They "grunt and sweat under a weary life" (Hamlet). If now they are coming out on the street, the situation must be serious. With the PPP showing fissures in the party, the government is walking on thin ice. Opposition parties are threatening to join the Lawyers' Movement being planned for March 9, the day General (retd) Musharraf tried to remove Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in 2007. "Beware the Ides of March," says the soothsayer to Caesar. The writer is a former ambassador at large