Sunday September 26, 2021

A popular officer may not be a good officer

Two things strike your eye as you enter Islamabad: green number plates of vehicles and green areas.

Both these greens have different meanings to convey. Green areas look good, healthy and inclusive.

But the vehicles bearing green number plates are quite the opposite as the passengers they carry wield excessive and exclusive powers. Most of them are bureaucrats.

People fall for getting photographed with them, share a cup of tea, have a social media interaction, or avail themselves of an opportunity to sit with them etc. They are the heroes and they are the anti-heroes.

A new army of bureaucrats has been added to already swelling ranks as CSS result is out now and those selected have been put in different cadres.

Those who are not very good at dealing with numbers also know that barely one in a thousand gets through this exam. If a little less than 300 people will join different services through this exam, it means over 30,000 have applied for it this year.

But for preparation of this exam, as many more people have dedicated a year or so of their lives.

These aspirants come out of the remotest corners of the country and Lahore is their ideal location to study, followed by other provincial metropolises and Islamabad.

Lahore houses quality libraries, not least the sprawling National Library on The Mall. They get berths on rent and one cubical has two berths in the area surrounding the library.

In Rawalpindi, Commercial Market is an attraction for them and in Islamabad Karachi Company because these two localities house many academies for CSS preparation.

It has become a roaring business. Imagine, over 50,000 loyal clients a year, educated, ambitious, young and desperate. What else do you need as a businessman?

Like ads of TV game shows that have names of big actors plastered on them, billboards of these academies attract clients with names of known bureaucrats who are supposed to teach them how to get through the exam.

We have doctors, engineers, educationists, sociologists, and psychologists etc. all aspiring to do nothing but CSS. Debates in universities sometime turn very interesting when you have students telling you that the whole system is rotten and that they want to become a CSS officer in the same breath.

If the system is rotten, why would one be wanting to be part of it? It transpires our youth has a love and hate relationship with the power associated with the system. They hate the fact that others have misused this power so blatantly but then they also love to wield this power.

Those that have lost this chance should not be disheartened as the world of new opportunities unfolds before them now. They should soon know it was not the end of the line.

Those who succeed this exam may land in Islamabad at one point in their service. They should understand the difference between a good and a popular decision.

Islamabad Chief Commissioner Amer Ahmed Ali (AAA) once told this scribe that an officer informed him that he has marked out some hours for meeting public. “I told him that you are young and you are here to serve public. Make yourself available to public 24/7 or find another profession,” he said. By digitizing the city administration to a large extent, he has almost done away with the concept of exclusive power and has systematically made the officers accountable.

He is not engaged in populist tactics on social media like other officers, some of whom are embroiled in land scams but it does not stop them from tweeting about everything on the planet.

The new officers should not follow such people and should not get carried away by popularity wave. Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Captain (r) Anwarul Haq is another example to follow. Due to his field-driven approach and hard work, he has brought some stability to the city but he is never prone to populism. We need good officers as we have enough of popular clowns moving in vehicles bearing green number plates, intimidating citizens of Islamabad.