At the Heart of Governance

The major task of administrative services is good governance at all the levels of administration. The PTI’s battle to de-politicize the bureaucracy is bound to run into problems for a number of reasons.

Posted on 09/23/18
By Ikram Sehgal | Via ViewsWeek
Several reforms of the Public Service in Pakistan have been initiated with only limited success.

The Civil Service of a country is central to any govt for good governance, important both in policy formulation and implementation. It provides sound technical and professional advice to governments and guides political office holders. Good governance can only be provided through a capable, dedicated and effective civil service devoted to serving the people and also be a ‘steel frame’ holding the country. Unfortunately, they became the rulers themselves and contributed hugely to be the disintegration of the country by their capricious, arbitrary and arrogant rule.


To quote my article ‘Balancing the Civil Service’ of Aug 5, 2010, “After the demise of Liaquat Ali Khan Shaheed in 1951, the federal bureaucracy took control over the country lock, stock, and barrel. Khawaja Nazimuddin was coined by bureaucrats led by Iskander Mirza into vacating the Governor General (GG) chair and became the Prime Minister (PM), bureaucrat Ghulam Mohammad took over as the GG Nazimuddin did not last too long at the hands of the now all-powerful GG. The bureaucracy then proceeded to usurp the rights of all other services who were not in the Civil Services of Pakistan (CSP) i.e. customs, income tax, police, secretariat group, commerce and trade, and railway officers, but mainly the Provincial Civil Services (PCS) officers. In 1954 Iskander Mirza replaced a “mentally unfit” Ghulam Mohammad as GG. Politicians that became PM were sacked one after the other on one pretext or the other. The CSPs had well learned from their British masters to divide and rule the politicians.” Unquote.


Addressing civil servants recently PM Imran Khan asked them to support his govt through a “down cycle” over the next two years and to support its “out-of-the-box” policy reforms. He assured ending political interference in the affairs of the civil bureaucracy where merit is largely ignored in appointments. He vowed to stand by them if they performed diligently and delivered what was needed to raise the stature of the bureaucracy, once considered the pride of Asia, to a world class level again.


To quote my article titled ‘Inherent Bad Governance’ of Sept 9, 2010, “Evolving at the Federal level, in 1973 members of the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) and the Police Services of Pakistan (PSP) became part of the All Pakistan Unified Grade in their existing posts. “Grade” was changed into “Group” to accommodate all groups of Central Superior Services (CSS) who were non-District Management Group (DMG) (i.e. from Postal, Railway, Income Tax, etc).  Unfortunately, Provincial Civil Services (PCS) and the Provincial Police Service (PPS) who actually provide governance at the grassroots level were kept out of the APUG. The DMG became all powerful by calling all the shots in all promotions and postings.  Rabid discrimination by the PSP denies the merit of PPS officers, deserving officers are either sidelined or made to wait for a proforma promotion for years till they are about to retire.  Senior PPS officers have to serve under junior PSP without experience or merit.” Unquote.  The DMG dominates the lives of thousands of provincial civil servants by criminally denying them their fundamental career rights under the laws of the land.  PCS and PPS officer live in fear of the DMG, unable to do anything against their wishes, a fact well known to every govt that has come into power, yet this travesty flourishes,” unquote.


Recently a Task Force on Civil Services Reform was constituted by the PM having eighteen members and a Secretary. Ten have been nominated by name and eight by designation while the Secretary is yet to be notified. What comes as a huge surprise and a shock is that all the eight officials designated by name belong to the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) while three out of those nominated by name are former ICS or DMG officers. This composition will cause friction and dissent among those in other services who believe that PAS is more interested in the protection and consolidation of its own power. Will these gentlemen are motivated in approving or initiating reforms in the civil services that could well see curtailment of powers of their colleagues?


While about 85-90% of the 800 or so DMG officers and 1750 PSP officers have tremendous integrity and commitment, 10-15% are outright crooks and insufferably arrogant besides. Having become all-powerful, they disregard all rules and operate with impunity. They are protected by politicians (during Musharraf’s times by senior Army officials), anyone wielding influence within the Establishment. Top bureaucrats like Ahad Cheema, a grade-20 officer of PAS and Fawad Hassan Fawad,a BPS-22 officer working as Principal Secretary to former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, are just two cases in point. Believing themselves “untouchables” on account of political patronage and power they wielded, according to sources in NAB, they allegedly indulged in wholesale corruption.


Several reforms of the Public Service in Pakistan have been initiated with only limited success. Historically, the public service is a colonial legacy, but the system that once was called the ‘steel frame’ of British-India has been distorted started from Z.A. Bhutto’s reforms in the 1970’s. The major task of administrative services is good governance at all the levels of administration. Unfortunately, over the years major politicization of the cadre and ethnic biases has destroyed its effective. Another major impediment to reform is the increasingly faulty preparation by candidates in the schooling system of the country (including lack of writing and understanding skills, knowledge of geography even of Pakistan even more so of the world) Consequently, description for public service posts must be specific and examinations need to respond to those requirements. Rigorous and merit-based selection according to the professional, language-wise and IT requirements is the first step but once recruited candidates have to get access to further qualification during their service and that needs to challenge ethical, political and maybe even religious biases that recruited officers may have as well as constant upgrading of their professional skills. It has to be a life-long learning process. Values like discipline, honesty, national pride, and commitment and readiness to adjust to innovation within the service need to be promoted, candidate for public service is part of society; their improvement and that of the service has to go hand in hand with improvement of education and improved promotion of values in all institutions country-wide –educational and others.


The arrest of Ahad Cheema drew a sharp reaction from the handful with a vested interest in the all-powerful PAS. Some PAS officers locked down their offices to protest “Cheema’s unlawful arrest”. Instead of condemning this, PML-N members of Punjab Assembly joined the protest and passed a resolution against NAB. The “strikers” threatened and cajoled their PAS colleague and Punjab Management Services (PMS) officers to join their illegal protest, however, only a handful joined in (21 PAS out of 200) and that too out of fear. About 35 out of 1200 PMS officers who initially joined protest later opted out.  This deliberate collective attempt at the very heart of govt to threaten and intimidate the vast majority make it into a mutiny, pure and simple. Can you imagine the tattered fabric of governance if this unholy cabal had been successful? The fact that there has been no accountability is a measure of their power and influence. The PTI’s battle to de-politicize the bureaucracy is bound to run into problems for a number of reasons. The Provincial Management Service (PMS) officers have already registered their protest that the Task Force does not include even a single PMS officer who numbers around 4000 from across the country and is the major stakeholders in ensuring good governance from top provincial levels to grassroots. They demand that at least two PMS officers from each province be included in the task force. The PM’s Task Force must have both the service groups represented, only proportional representation will ensure a stake in the system for transparent governance


One has no hesitation in acknowledging the vast majority of honest, talented and patriotic DMG officers who serve diligently and are loyal to the core.


The writer is a defense and security analyst.

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