author: Ms. Kiran Khurshid
Writing about sensitive issues and doing serious research work is not the usual forte of civil servants in Pakistan. They are mostly known in the public for their wanton arrogance, impassiveness and lust for power. However, after going through “A Treatise on the Civil Service of Pakistan: The Structural- Functional History (1601-2011)” written by Ms. Kiran Khurshid- a young DMG officer of 34th Common Training Program of 2005 – I can now aver that our young entrants to the elite civil service are capable individuals like their colonial predecessors who left countless footprints on the sands of history with their dedicated hard work and public service in the sub-continent. This 446 page book, divided in eight chapters, is an analytical study of the rise of the institution of civil service from the establishment of the East India Company in 1601 to 2011, when decades of mismanagement and institutional decay have made this vital symbol of federation quite incapable of service delivery and governance in Pakistan.
The book covers a span of more than 4 centuries. There are more than 300 pictures, career profiles of eminent civil servants, 45 tables depicting vital statistics, 23 flow charts and hierarchical structures, 12 maps of different territories, multiple charts and histograms developed from the original data as well as special articles in each chapter, relevant to the era, and an indication of the contribution of the eminent civil servants, make it worth reading. The information regarding administrative divisions and logos of various tiers of governments has been collected from original sources.
While civil service is a universally recognized institution; it was Confucius (551BC– 479 BC) in ancient China who proposed to recruit civil servants on merit through examination. In India, it was the British East India Company which established and organized a professional body of imperial civil servants which was later known as the Indian Civil Service. Because of its hard work, dedication and high intellect, it soon reached the zenith of glory and underwent a transformation in the post-colonial period.
On the one hand, memoirs of Indian civil servants portrayed the civil service through rose-tinted glasses, especially ‘The Men Who Ruled India’ by Philip Woodruff Mason and ‘The Indian Civil Service: 1601-1930’ by L.S.S O’Malley. The oft referred and widely quoted books on the subject overly romanticized and idealized this institution and the character of its members. On the other hand, the non-service authors reflected a tendency to cut the civil servants to size. Public perception regarding the civil servants, however, remained far from positive. This may be attributed to its evolution under the colonial rule. The colonial regime relied on this ‘steel frame of administration’ and firmly ruled over more than 25 million people through these civil servants.
After independence, the newly emerged state of Pakistan continued with the previous pattern of recruitment and training of the civil servants. Upon their selection in the civil service of Pakistan, the new recruits were sent to England for training. The first two decades witnessed an unprecedented rise in the authority of civil and military bureaucracy in Pakistan. This phenomenon can be attributed to a couple of factors; in the absence of a unified and mature political leadership, the British trained military and civil bureaucracy rushed to fill the power vacuum.
Subsequently, an era began which is termed as the military-bureaucratic oligarchy in the history of Pakistan. The collusion of both civil and military bureaucracy for aggrandizement of political power projected their negative image in public and ruined the professional integrity of the institution.
After the secession of East Pakistan in 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in an attempt to overhaul the administration and to put the civil bureaucracy in its rightful place, introduced administrative reforms in 1974. These reforms curtailed the powers of CSPs, which was renamed as the DMG (District Management Group). It also placed all service groups on an equal footing as well as forbidding the use of service titles such as CSPs, PSPs or FSPs accompanying the names of the officers. An integrated recruitment scheme as well as a post-selection training program was introduced for all occupational groups. The recruitment and training is still done through the same channel proposed under these reforms.
The governance and the civil service are intrinsically linked; neither can be studied in isolation. In recent years, the government of Pakistan has contracted loans with International Financial Institutions such as IMF, ADB and the World Bank. In lieu of aid, these IFIs have shown a proclivity to impose their prescriptions for good governance as well. One of the significant components of these packages is the restructuring and the rightsizing of the management and financial services. For instance, billions of rupees were spent on the World Bank funded Devolution Plan which is now being modified. Such policies not only generated a feeling of structural instability and insecurity among civil servants but among their clientele as well, which is generally the public at large.
Currently, the civil service of Pakistan is at a crossroads. Today, young entrants to the service are bewildered about their role and senior civil servants are disillusioned with what they describe as undue political interference in the executive work, as well as with their posting and transfer which impinges upon their integrity.
The overall socio-economic environment has changed a lot. A plethora of portfolios, autonomous bodies, semi-autonomous institutions, public sector corporations and departments have not only opened new vistas of opportunity for civil servants but have also transformed their roles. However, this growth of the public sector has been challenged by the unprecedented growth of the private sector, which has spillover effects on the roles and responsibilities of civil servants by bringing the public sector into sharp contrast. Besides this, multiple other factors such as population explosion, deteriorating infrastructure and increase in financial liabilities of the state, have adversely affected public service delivery. There is a huge burden on state resources because the growth in population has not witnessed a corresponding increase in the fiscal space. Rather, the relationship between the two remains inverse. There is one school of thought that strongly advocates the intrusive and assertive role of the state. It is against this backdrop that a civil servant has to carve out a niche for himself between the two extremes.
It is hoped that our young civil servants would continue writing on issues of vital importance to help reform this service according to changing needs and requirements.