Serve, not rule

On August 14,1973 Pakistan attained the status of a constitutional democracy. It should have been the end of the colonial era based on the Government of India Act 1930 but it was not. The elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto which called itself the ‘awami hukumat’ (the people’s government) tried to end the colonial legacy. People-oriented legislation was carried out. Colonial bureaucracy was also contained. The massively infamous police tried to flex its importance by going on strike in Punjab and KP (NWFP then). In response, Ghulam Mustafa Khar and Hayat Sherpao, the two young and dashing governors, served an ultimatum to the men in uniform; “Return to duty within 24 hours or face dismissal”. Within a few hours it was all over.

The elected government of the time introduced several reforms in the civil service. The prevalent National Pay Scale (NPS) and employment grade system was introduced during this period. The purpose was to create a people-friendly bureaucracy that was required to serve, not rule. Under the constitution, the elected Prime Minister (PM) was authorised to appoint or promote officers in grades 21 and 22. Through lateral entry, several technocrats were appointed as Federal Secretaries. Zia neutralised all gains of the democratic era (1971 to 1977) through his tenure (July 1977 to August 1988). Instead of the constitution, he relied on the Government of India Act 1930 which gave sweeping, unlimited powers to rulers and their administrative structure.

The spirit of the constitution was to bring required talent into the sluggish bureaucracy of the country. All cases of promotion (Grade 21 and 22) were decided by the PM. During the term of Yousaf Raza Gillani, junior officers were promoted in Grade 22 while ignoring the seniors. The affected officers filed a writ in the Supreme Court which annulled the promotions and ruled that a promotion criterion should be adopted. Till today, confusion prevails. The provincial cadre feels overlooked and discriminated. The career path of all civil servants should end at Grade 20, beyond which all promotions should be on open merit. The Public Service Commission should advertise all positions in Grade 21 and 22 with proper job descriptions and required qualifications. Those who qualify both within the civil service and outside, the top three candidates, should be recommended for promotion to the PM. The procedure will take away the heartache form various service cadres by providing equal opportunity to all. Qualified technocrats will also get an opportunity to join the civil service to improve performance with their expertise.

The Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), the premier body of engineers, has passed several resolutions for appointing technocrats to head technical ministries like; Science and Technology, Information Technology, Housing and Works, Railways, Communication, Energy, Water and Power, Petroleum and Natural Resources etc. There is some confusion on the definition of a technocrat as well. A technical person trained to be a manger is qualified to be classified as a technocrat. About a century ago, bureaucrats were replaced by technocrats as issues of management have become quite complex due to application of advanced technologies. While politicians are elected through the ballot, technocrats rise in the ranks on the basis of their qualifications and professional standing.

Amongst all the fronts once the pandemic is over, two areas are of vital importance; to develop a supportive system of governance and focusing on the economy. The 1973 unanimous constitution has withstood various storms, now it must be applied in letter and spirit. The Government of India Act 1930 was passed by the Imperial British parliament we must reject it in totality and move towards our own document passed by a genuinely elected house consisting of very able parliamentarians. There is already talk of building a second republic with a new constitution. The 1973 document is being blamed for lack of performance. As a student of management, it is my firm belief that the policy frameworks should be fully implemented before suggesting needed changes, in this case it has not happened mainly because of the hostile environment of status-quo.
After the Lawyers’ Movement of 2007 both the judiciary and the military have undergone some transformation but the royal colonial bureaucracy remains unmoved. Governance continues to be the weakest link in our march forward. Transparency, accountability, SOPs are either missing or not followed. The non-supportive system has to be reformed to meet the requirements of the 1973 constitution, as the elected head of government, the PM has all the powers to deliver as was done in the seventies when the agreement between the voted and the voters was enacted, moving us away from the Government of India Act 1930. Naya Pakistan should be cleansed of all colonial legacies, championed by the imperial bureaucracy left behind to rule over us.

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation, email:

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