Injured Backbone of the State

By Bareera Gulzar

At the time of partition, Pakistan adopted the British’s administrative apparatus known as the civil service. Little to no reforms were made to the British Raj’s existing civil service before adopting, which has consequences to date. The aim was to have an apolitical, neutral and independent civil service, which will act as the State’s backbone; however, this is not the case today. The civil servants get inadequate compensation and face excessive accountability and unlimited political interference, which has injured our State’s backbone. To make the State strong, the backbone needs to be strengthened through reforms.

The worldwide myth about civil servants is that they enjoy many perks seen in the UK, like flexible working options, excellent career progression opportunities, and an ideal work-life balance. This is true to some extent in Pakistan, especially for the better-placed groups through their field postings. However, the majority of them don’t even get a revised payment indexed to inflation. Thus, these pay packages are not incentivizing the civil servants to give their best performance. Job security is one of the reasons why people prefer to join government jobs rather than private ones. However, this permanency produces a non-performance trend among the civil servants, spreading quickly, disincentivizing good performance. To incentivize civil servants, reforms are needed in the payment packages by making payments indexed to inflation, which will boost their performance.

Civil servants have to face accountability at every step of their projects. Thus, discouraging them from taking up any project at all. This accountability mechanism consumes a significant amount of time needed for civil servants to perform their work, as they get busy justifying their actions. The same is in Ireland, where the civil servants have to fulfill multiple accountability requirements, which hinders their performance. The purpose of effective accountability is to ensure that government departments perform their responsibility in a considerate manner, strengthening the public’s influence in decision-making matters; however, it harms civil servants’ performance. With the removal of these excessive layers of accountability, the civil servants will get enough time to focus on their work contributing to the country’s wellbeing. Sometimes more accountability is harmful than less accountability.

According to the rules of business 1973, every department has its list of duties; however, inference in each other’s work is seen frequently. Politicians mostly interfere in the posting of civil servants. They want the person who is more inclined towards their ideology to be posted in their area. Instead of considering their prior experiences in various fields, the politicians appoint civil servants according to their so-called checklist of skills. A recent example is the appointment of chairman FBR Syed Muhammad Shabbar Zaidi, set by the PTI government. However, this is not the case in Australia and Canada. The ministries are incentivized to appoint the most competent officers because their performance is judged based on the senior officers’ performance. Such reform can make political appointments beneficial. Sweden presents a very politically neutral account in which transparency in the government officers’ day-to-day activity is promoted to avoid any political intervention.

The civil servants have no choice but to follow the politicians’ illegal orders, just like in the recent IG Sindh case. Rangers abducted IG Sindh and made him forcefully sign the warrant to arrest Captain Safdar. Such examples have become a routine in Pakistan. The civil servants who disobey the orders are given OSD (officer on special duty), depriving them of their perks. This inference should be eliminated so that competent civil servants can work with full passion in the areas which direly need such masterminds. They need to work in an environment free of political interference so the best outcomes can be seen. The same case can be seen in France, where every new government uses its fair share of appointment power, leaving the non-politicized civil servants at their mercy.

Adding to the misery is the negligence of tenure assurance, which has been given no importance in the PTI led government. IG Punjab has been changed seven times in 3 years, which is one such example. Civil servants are selected through a regressive selection process, which helps choose the best people from the country; hence, there is a dire need for reforms in the service. Rather than dragging them to the court, the government should compensate them financially. They deserve better, so do our citizens. No country can progress with a damaged backbone.

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