Technocrats have replaced bureaucrats the world over, but not in the land of the pure. Today, the Is­lamic Republic of Pakistan (IRP) faces serious gov­ernance challenges that seem insurmountable in the ex­isting system. Most civilian institutions have become non-functional with the probability of an imminent collapse. All attempts at reforms have been stalled by the well-entrenched bureaucracy that controls the files and the needed paperwork. Recently, Dr Ishrat Hussain enacted the Civil Services Effi­ciency Rules 2020 to improve the performance of the civil servants but with the change of gov­ernment, they are being ignored.

As a bureaucrat turned technocrat himself, Dr Ishrat fully understood the importance of their entry into the ad­ministrative setup. He recommended the entry of subject experts at the lower level and then moving them up under the guidance of serving senior bureaucrats. In a discussion with him, I pointed out that the existing people’s hatred of the system will have a negative influence on the young offi­cers to which he agreed, but implemented his original mod­el. Even genuinely elected governments (Bhutto, Imran) un­derestimated the negativity of the system. Bhutto however, started with the premise that all was not well. He moved decisively to introduce major structural reforms in the bu­reaucratic setup. As a first step, he retired 1300 Civil Ser­vants which sent a clear message that he meant business. He then introduced the prevalent Grade Structure (NPS 1 to 22) to streamline selection and promotions. Elevation into higher grades (21, 22) was the prerogative of the Prime Minister (PM). He even inducted several technocrats into senior positions. Several federal secretaries (Engr Masood Hasan, Nasim Hasan, and Dr Muhammad Ajmal to name a few) were inducted to produce results.

In the decade of the sixties, the Cornelius Commission was set up to reform the administrative system of the country. Justice A R Cornelius started his career as a civ­il servant who then ended up on the judicial side. He then rose to be the Chief Justice of Pakistan (JCP), he was an honest, able and upright individual. He lived all his life at the Faletti’s Hotel and left an unmatched legacy but no in­heritance/property for his children. His Wolseley Car was donated to the Supreme Court Museum and the suitcase of his earthly belongings is lying in the office of his for­mer law firm on Mall Road. As head of the Commission, he held public hearings at the YMCA Hall. It was a serious attempt at major structural reforms but the two members of the bureaucracy, to build resistance, leaked the find­ings before they were announced. The entire effort was wasted in the land of the pure.

On June 26, 2004, I had the chance to meet Mir Zafarul­lah Khan Jamali, the 15th PM of Pakistan. The meeting took place around 3 pm. I tried to convince him to appoint tech­nocrats in at least the technical ministries. He said no they are not elected, clearly indicating his understanding that they replace politicians. I then went on to explain that in the civilised developed world bureaucrats were replaced with technocrats about half a century ago. He was a well-mean­ing individual with an open mind, he asked me for a written proposal, which I handed over to him. At night when I sat for the 9 pm news, his dismissal was announced.

Pakistan is blessed with world-renowned technocrats who can certainly turn us around, but the big question re­mains who dares to bell the cat? The evil networks based on common interests are too entrenched in the land of the pure. As the first trained technocrat to head the Pakistan Science Foundation (2002 to 2005) even I was surprised at the negativity of the system. It took me one full year be­fore I could take on the all-powerful controlling mafia to introduce the much-needed structural changes. The sur­gery continued in the second year of my term. When the dividends started to show, the Ministry and its babus con­spired to deny my extension. May God save and protect the republic till the technocrats are called in to play their role.

Dr Farid A Malik

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