Clever politicians and other leaders set the agenda for much of the public debate. Sometimes, the topics we are given to talk about divert the debate from more important and difficult issues. The art of politics is such, and politicians know that they cannot be everything to all men and women. They have to prioritise what they do and when they do it.This week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in the midst of Parliament’s budget debate, decided to inform the parliamentarians and the public that former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf will be prosecuted for treason. Earlier, it had been thought that Musharraf might be given a safe passage to go into exile rather than face charges, as was the way the previous civilian rulers treated him. The new government, however, wants to ascertain that military leaders don’t go scot-free. To charge the former general may be meant as a deterrent to his colleagues, making them less tempted to try any take-over of power - ever again.But was the matter really so urgent that it had to interrupt the budget debate? No, it was not. I, however, think it was a smart way of diverting attention about budgetary issues. That was at least partly the reason for the PM’s timing of the announcement - and we all started talking about it, forgetting other things. In addition, it sets the government’s tone about democracy. Furthermore, the government has already emphasised that ministers should show more modesty in salaries and benefits in their top posts. Generally, there will be less tolerance for corruption, too. The symbolic effect of ministers taking oath when they are appointed should remind them of the special ethical requirements that come with the high offices. Alas, it has in the past not always been the case. In Norway, ministers have had to resign for relatively petty irregularities, such as building an extension to their home without proper permits; fiddling with travel records; keeping untidy tax records and investing in speculative funds and stocks, and so on. Norway may have gone too far in keeping its ministers on the ‘straight and narrow’. Yet, Pakistan can borrow a few leaves and sack top leaders, who don’t meet the standards of the oath they have taken. It will increase the credibility of the politicians at home and abroad.Before the government’s Musharraf announcement, the important electricity crisis had been given attention. The Prime Minister had travelled to Kashmir to see for himself the developments of the Jehlum-Neelam Hydro Power Project, ordering its completion to be speeded up. Pakistan’s energy crisis is serious and needs utmost attention and quick solutions. Without sufficient and reliable supply of energy, its economic development will be much delayed. In hindsight, we ask, how could it be allowed to drift this far?Without steady and sufficient energy supply, Pakistani production plants will relocate to other countries, or close business altogether. Rather than attracting foreign investment, there will be a flight of jobs and capital. The government, nevertheless, wants to encourage foreign investment, not just keep their own industries that are already running. This was taken up at the important meetings in Dubai this week.It is also aware of the importance of creating more jobs for men and women in the country in the next years and decades - bearing in mind that no less than some fifty million new jobs must be created by 2050. The PML-N government believes in making conditions for the private sector more favourable. That is, indeed, a welcome policy and I would add, there must be improved tax collection and redistribution of wealth to the needy. But it has said little about the latter and may have a simplistic belief in the “trickle down” effect of economic growth. The government needs a clear plan for how it can collect more tax, not only to pay for an oversized military, but also education and social services, and other investments such as transport and communication. Economic development and job creation are paramount issues for any government in any country and indeed so in a large developing country like Pakistan with a high population growth. There is a need for family planning policies, which the country has not had for more than a generation. Thus far, the government has not addressed that field and other health related fields.To achieve economic development, it is necessary to investment in education and the social sectors. It is an outdated idea to think parents should pay for their children’s basic education. Pakistan spends less than two percent of its GDP on education, while experts recommend at least four percent. The United Nations and the World Bank have plenty of research data showing that investment in literacy and primary education is the smartest thing a developing country can do for economic development. Apprenticeship programmes and skills training courses must be offered to working youth and those who are unemployed so that they can become employed. Higher education has received some increase in the new budget that is important, but the other education levels must be lifted at the same time by the provinces’ budget allocations. Pakistan’s performs poorly, with high illiteracy rates and millions school-age children being out of school. Probably, it will be unable to reach Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. I have on purpose not discussed the important security field earlier in this article, notably how to reduce the suicide and other terror attacks, how to end the drone attacks and develop normal relations with the neighbours in the region and the only superpower, USA. Many would argue that without improved security much of the other development efforts will be futile. I am glad that the federal government seems to have a firm stance on the security issues, including ending drone attacks. However, there is little the government can do in the short term, except for what the law enforcement and military agencies already do. In the long term, it is essential that the economic and social development issues are handled in an all-inclusive way, not only economic growth. The public debate, the media, NGOs, schools and so on, must inform and educate about these issues so that every citizen can feel that he or she has a stake in the society. Much was destroyed during the unfortunate ‘war on terror’ in the last decade, and earlier, on polarising religious and other issues. In future, if we can focus more on issues that can make all Pakistanis feel included and valuable - with hopes, aspirations, jobs, knowledge, rights and duties - then the country’s future will be great. At the moment, I feel that the PML-N government does focus on the most important issues, but less on debates. It must not be allowed to divert the political and public debate to less important topics, or its own issues. Focus must be on key economic and social issues.Humbly, let me add that I have only discussed some of the important topics of concern to the new government and the people. Certainly, I will be criticised for not having mentioned climate change and environmental issues - and many other issues.

The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience from research, diplomacy and development aid.