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December 2, 2012

Disorderly conduct

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December 2, 2012

In yet another display of tensions between the courts and the government, the Supreme Court’s clear-cut directive – issued on November 12 and stating that civil servants must be allowed to complete their tenure and not removed on flimsy grounds, unless “compelling reasons” existed and were put down in writing – has been ignored. Barely two weeks after this ruling, the additional deputy commissioner of Islamabad, Maryam Khan, was removed from her post. She had taken up her duties only a month ago. In a written order to the Islamabad authorities, the interior ministry had stated Ms Khan be demoted to Grade BS-17 from her present post in BS-18, assigned the role of assistant commissioner and be replaced by her junior, Farid Mustafa, who was recently removed from the CDA where efforts are on to ‘clean up’ the authority. Perhaps keen to avoid humiliating Khan, the chief commissioner Islamabad appointed her officer on special duty (OSD) rather than making her serve under a junior officer. The SC, in its ruling, had also said that the use of the OSD tag was not acceptable.
The real issue perhaps lies in the fact that Maryam Khan had a reputation as an honest officer, and there may be some people around who do not want such persons in key posts. The SC had specifically mentioned this possibility in its verdict on the matter. We will have to wait and see how this latest situation evolves. Naturally, if court orders are periodically ignored, the result will be chaos. Indeed we already see too much of that around us. The fact remains that we badly need good, honest governance in the country. This is possible only if competent officers are allowed to carry out their duties without disruption. We can only hope for an improvement in efficiency and better public services if the right people are allowed to serve at the right posts – and not thrust aside simply because this does not suit someone in a powerful position, with their own interests to protect. Over

the last few years, we have seen just how destructive cronyism and nepotism can be. The apex court had attempted to correct this, and offer government servants some security of tenure. Its orders have once again been violated, highlighting the government’s inherent hostility towards any notion of rule of law.

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