Security issues and the War on Terror have metamorphosed Islamabad into a barricaded city. Gun-toting policemen and security officials are everywhere. Highways and byways are blocked with heavy concrete barriers for police checks and no journey is uninterrupted. The bottlenecks are particularly irksome at iftar time when people are in a hurry to get home. In up scale residential sectors, substantial portions of the road and the footpath have been taken over for erecting huge, 10 feet high concrete barriers around diplomatic residences, causing serious problems for other residents. Traffic is choked, and the random police checks, essentially cosmetic, are irritating for normal road users. There is no professional method behind these barriers. Bungalows have simply become fortresses. "In no other capital of the world will you see such a proliferation of barricaded diplomatic residences as you do in Islamabad today," says Ambassador Tariq Fatimi who has served in different capitals as Pakistan's envoy, including the former Soviet Union. He reminds us of the 1961Vienna Convention which regulates all such matters strictly: the free for all in Islamabad is nowhere else to be found. But we live with all this, giving up civil space to coercive forces. The issue of inflation in Ramadan is another bane. Weeks before the advent of the holy month (August 23, albeit 22 in the NWFP), food prices shot up in anticipation of the increased demand, the government's pious declarations to keep them in check notwithstanding. This is especially so in the case of atta (wheat flour) and sugar. Media now free, private TV channels are diligently keeping us informed. According to one report, politicians own more than 50 percent of the sugar mills in the country. The media is constantly reporting about the sugar price regulatory intrigues that end up benefiting the mill owners. It is thus not surprising that the government is unable to ensure a reasonable price of sugar. Same is the case with wheat flour. Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the dynamic CM of Punjab, is desperately trying to beat the profiteers by creating a parallel supply chain of flour. Long cues of 'fasting' men and women standing there in the sun to get some atta from a truck must be a frustrating sight for the CM to watch on his spot checks. He must have also seen them being beaten into a line as they get restive with the long vigil in the hot sun. But contrast it with the TV footage of the Cabinet sitting on oak tables, the PM chairing, bedecked in dark suits and foppish ties, nodding wisely before the cameras. What a contrast What else? Yes, load shedding that persists. Undoubtedly, there is no load shedding at sehr and iftar, but otherwise the schedules are gruelling. While the government ignores the public outcry of corruption over rental power, it is mind boggling why our own available capacity is not being used to bring more electricity, at least 1200 MW according to one estimate, into the system. Use available capacity and not rent would seem sane economic logic not appealing to the government. A new twist to the demand for Musharraf's trial is being given as a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief makes public confessions about some ticklish issues including the notorious "operation" launched by the army in Karachi in the 1990s. MQM was then trashed as an anti-national party over a map of "Jinnahpur", an independent enclave, which the authorities said they had discovered during the operation. This was unfair of the IB, the former chief now tells us, providing a club to the MQM with which to beat Nawaz Sharif when he is demanding Musharraf's trial. Politics is an amoral game: the IB chief now coming clean - politically hurting Sharif - who was then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif's DG IB. Public muckraking as the media shows us our political history. Moreover, Nawab Akbar Bugti's son has filed a murder case for the killing of his father against Musharraf in the court of Addl Sessions Judge, Quetta. The friends Musharraf confers with should advise him to continue living in London. Living through all the above, you do get a sense of activity. This is a globe trotting government, the president in particular who returns from China one day and goes to London the next. The grouping of Washington, army and the government on one hand, and that of the judiciary, the civil society and the people of Pakistan on the other, seems still intact. For the present, the Supreme Court is watching from the wings. But it seems that frustrated by macro-managing Pakistan from a distance, the Americans have decided to squat here and micro-manage it, see where their money is going. The news in town is that they are coming in a big way. But what happens in the event remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, we await the festival of Eid, just about three weeks away. The writer is a former ambassador at large