THE spiralling prices under policies dictated by the IMF have finally resulted in their dangerous fallout - with people coming on to the streets in protest. Since Thursday, the outskirts of Islamabad, both at Bara Kahu and later Faizabad, primarily students have been protesting the steep hike in fares which they cannot afford. The protests began peacefully but as usual the police overreacted and let loose bullets and tear gas, injuring some students and then not allowing any ambulance or first aid to reach these injured protestors. As always happens in such cases, the response of the student protestors was violent also. Despite the government having withdrawn its decision to allow the fares hike, the protests continued on Friday and spread to Faizabad. Meanwhile, the police went about arresting people randomly including many innocent people who went to offer prayers on Friday. The issue it seems is not simply about the fare hike although that has been the catalyst for the present rioting. It is about the general unresponsiveness of the government to the plight of the people, especially in connection with the rising prices of necessities as well as the shortages. As some of the protesting students explained, they had been protesting the fare hike since last month but no one took any notice. So eventually they had to resort to these protests. But the fact that despite the reversal of the decision raising the fares, the protests have continued and expanded, points to a larger malaise. The protests reflect the anger and frustration of the ordinary people and unless the government moves in a substantive manner to redress peoples economic grievances, these protests could well spiral out of control, moving on to other cities and increasing in intensity. So far the governments response has been disappointing. The police and local officials, refusing to accept the anger of the ordinary people, have decided to attribute the protests to political parties and 'terrorists. This explanation is absurd and a refusal to accept the realities on the ground. The fact is that there has been no political leadership at all of the protests from any quarter. It has been a spontaneous response of the sufferers to a grave economic injustice and the lack of a response from the government to the plight of the people. That is why there is a danger of it spiralling out of control which could have fatal consequences. In fact, the overall behaviour of the state reflects the total lack of governance and proactive policies. The fact that the government makes ad hoc decisions which it then takes back under pressure speaks volumes for the lack of structured governance and hence the absence of government credibility. The nation seems ready to ignite; but the leadership is on a different page altogether. Yet, unless it responds to the peoples plight, the onset of summer and increased loadshedding will provide another catalyst.