Apparently, yet another set of reforms in the bureaucratic structure of Pakistan is on the cards. During the past seven decades we have heard this umpteen times: the bureaucracy is not performing...
Apparently, yet another set of reforms in the bureaucratic structure of Pakistan is on the cards. During the past seven decades we have heard this umpteen times: the bureaucracy is not performing well, pay scales are not appropriate, the promotion mechanism is not right, ACRs (annual confidential reports) are being mismanaged, and so on and so forth. These observations are topped up by suggestions such as: we need better talented personnel in government service, salaries should be raised so that corruption is reduced, civil servants should be free of political meddling and, finally, we need experts and specialists – in other words technocrats – so that they can give the best advice to the government and manage the state machinery in an effective and efficient manner. All this sounds pretty sweet to unsuspecting ears. From bureaucrats such as Malik Ghulam Muhammad and Chaudhay Muhammad Ali to securocrats Generals Ayub Khan and Musharraf – all have tried to give us ‘the best and the most talented’ officers.
And now we have another committee led by Dr Ishrat Hussain tasked to reform the entire bureaucratic setup of Pakistan. According to details, the committee has suggested that the government take away around 600 cadre posts from the Pakistan Administrative service (PAS). The PAS itself was a fancy name given to the old setup of District Management Group (DMG) in 2012. Now the suggestion is that the government hire 200 top-notch specialists for the federal secretariat. This will amount to a proposed depletion of around 600 cadre posts equivalent to nearly 40 per cent of the total. According to reports, the prime minister has already approved the latest civil-service reforms. The details are still awaited and no formal announcement has been made as yet in this regard, but there are certain points that need highlighting.
As in the past, the focus has been too much on ‘a few good men’. The expectation from such Ubermensch will be to act according to the best practices, and to deliver to the government the super services. The public doesn’t figure at all in this story. One would like to know how the revamped administration will be able to transform the state’s functioning if the levers are in the hands of the so-called specialists while the entire machinery is clogged and is not taken care of. It is also a matter of public interest because all administrative actions affect the people’s lives. The interests and rights of the people must be of prime importance while initiating or executing such drastic reforms. The primary responsibility of any ‘good’ personnel is to serve the people’s interests and protect their rights. We suggest that the people be informed about the details before a final decision is taken in this matter. Any comprehensive overhaul of the management of national affairs cannot be left to the ‘experts’ alone.