Whichever way one looks at it - this winter is set to be one of pure hell on so many fronts at once that something just has to give: The recently announced, absolutely stupendous, increase in electricity costs, combined with a resumption of loadshedding, is one prime factor of course, and so too is the high price and low availability of gas, which always hits when temperatures begin to drop and the demand increases correspondingly. Add to this, for many rural dwellers at least, the astronomical price of fuel wood, plus, the mind-boggling cost of hiring transport and labour to haul it home and it appears that every single person in this huge, populous country, is set to shiver on the physical, mental and financial level in the way they have never done before. Throw into this already dangerous equation that prices of even basic foodstuffs continue to rise steadily and are set to do so even more as a direct result of governmental mismanagement in all matters relating to essential food security, the country has just lost a substantial amount of fresh food in the form of crops and livestock in the catastrophic Sindh flooding and an extremely potent recipe for disastrous upheaval in the form of widespread civil unrest becomes clearly apparent as, without the security net of food and fuel to cook it on, plus, necessary heating to keep other ills at bay, the people are going to be both hungry and very angry, indeed. Political instability is something everyone has long since learnt to live with and rumours of war are nothing new either, although - for now at least - the potential foes lie to the north of our borders, rather than to the usual east, while the war with America is already, and not so covertly, in process and it is impossible to ignore that we are teetering on the edge of a rather nasty abyss and one into which even the slightest push will send us. The usual claptrap, we have, after all, heard it and experienced it before, about five-day working weeks and markets pulling their shutters down at sunset, will only serve to exacerbate - certainly not resolve - any of the above, as the population at large is going to feel - rightly or wrongly - more disgruntled and deprived than ever. Then, this must not be overlooked; Muharram begins towards the end of November and sectarian tensions, combined with possible Taliban 'interventions, are liable to be on the cards too and just how much of everything are a people expected to tolerate before throwing up their hands and yelling, enough is enough We have already experienced power riots, especially in Punjab where, as always and everywhere else too, such demonstrations of people power are promptly hijacked by political and religious parties for their own glorification and, so they hope, future vote bank but, thankfully and at long last, the people themselves do appear to be opening their eyes to reality and realising that the future, peaceful or otherwise, of this shockingly beleaguered nation lies in their hands, rather than in those who have let them down, badly, so many times in the past. Sick and fed up of being force-fed an unrelenting diet of empty promises and hollow rhetoric, none of which put food on the table, provide light and fuel, education and employment, healthcare and security let alone cater for the increasing incidence of environmental disasters, the vast majority of the population has simply had enough and witnessing, this is impossible to dispute, the rich get richer, while the rest find it more and more difficult to make ends meet let alone keep a roof over their heads, the heat, metaphorically speaking of course, is rapidly reaching critical mass and is therefore bound, unless some kind of astonishing miracle occurs, to explode with the impact of one of our much lauded nuclear weapons. It goes without saying that the writer will, yet once again, stand accused of 'panic mongering, but anyone with a head on their shoulders should also be able to see, quite clearly, that the writing is very much on the wall unless and until some form of remedial action is taken but, and this is a moot point, action on what and by whom? Civil revolt, the much acclaimed Arab revolutions being prime examples as they have certainly not achieved many, if any, improvements in the lives of the mere mortals who actively participated in instigating change and are, in some cases, actually worse off than 'before, usually, this is backed up by historical evidence from around the globe, suffer more than ever in the short-term and, over the long-term, face a difficult, steeply uphill task, in even regaining the level, no matter how low, of equilibrium they 'enjoyed prior to rallying to the revolutionary call which is something that we need to keep in mind before mindlessly erupting in righteous indignation. It is patently obvious that something drastic needs to be done but, minus honest leadership, all that can possibly result is mobocracy and this, it must be stressed, is something to be avoided if Pakistan is to survive in any recognisable form. A saviour is desperately needed so.wherever you are hiding.please come out and make your presence known The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Womans War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban. Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com