Unfettered Bureaucracy (Editorial April 2018)

Unfettered Bureaucracy  (Editorial April 2018)

The Key to a Flourishing and Prosperous Pakistan 

“May be some of you may fall victim for not satisfying the whims of ministers. I hope it does not happen, but you may even be put to trouble, not because you are doing anything wrong but because you are doing right.”
– Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s address to the civil servants (Peshawar, April 1948)

The death of Deputy Commissioner Gujranwala, Mr Sohail Ahmed Tipu, who – reportedly – committed suicide, has once again brought to light the grave challenges our country’s bureaucracy is faced with. As per media reports, Mr Tipu’s body was found hanging from a ceiling fan at his residence with his hands tied at the back – it probably negates the claim that he committed suicide. After his tragic death, the matter will be ‘probed’ amidst tall claims of nabbing and bringing to book the real culprits. But, given the history of inconclusive probes into such deaths in the past, there is all likelihood that the matter will soon be forgotten – out of sight, out of mind. Most likely, his demise will be attributed to some psychological disorder or depression. It is a warning shot across the bows of the bureaucrats: don’t dare perform your duties honestly and keep the authority vested in you by the law of the land leashed and sheathed!

It has become customary in our administrative system that the bureaucrats, or those at a position of authority, are either pressurized or lured with financial gains in order to make them acquiescent and servile to the influential, rather than the state. Those who are ready to compromise on their conscience become the blue-eyed boys of the rulers; they are assigned the posts where they can make hefty sums of money to fill their closets and also those of their masters. The case of Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani, former finance secretary of Balochistan, who hit the headlines in May 2016 when NAB seized over Rs 730 million hard cash from his house in Quetta, is one such example.

This is why we often see a junior officer commanding his seniors as he is assigned the post for which he is not eligible as per the law. For instance, a former Director General of Lahore Development Authority (LDA) was assigned a grade-20 post despite the fact that he was, then, in grade-18. On the other hand, those who refuse to bow to the pressure and enticements remain in the bad books of those in power. And, this is exactly where the shoe pinches.

There is no blinking at the fact that most of the problems our country is plagued with today originate from a subservient bureaucracy. There are many black spots on the face of our bureaucratic setup, and one would hardly deny that we still have a number of Mushtaq Raisanis and Zafar Hijazis, who receive large salaries and perks and privileges from the state but serve the interests of the ruling elite. Startling revelations are also coming out during the proceedings of a suo motu case, which is being heard by a two-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by the Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, regarding the salary structure of public-sector companies. The reports suggest that some darling officers were posted in public companies created by the Government of the Punjab with their salaries up to Rs 2 million, besides the allowances up to Rs 300,000 for residence and vehicles. It is harrowing that these apples of government’s eye drew salaries far more than the Chief Secretary of the province did. To add insult to injury, the novel initiative of creating public sector companies could make no significant impact on the lives of the masses – it did change that of officers, though.

We do advocate paying good salaries to the civil servants but doling out such huge perks will always prove counterproductive without a tough system of accountability. Had there been such a mechanism in place, there would have been no need to create the ‘shady’ public-sector companies that have further burdened the national exchequer.

In the light of the above assertions, it is now imperative to introduce fundamental reforms in country’s civil service structure at the earliest. Merit and only merit should prevail and the favouritism must end now. We should not let the grass grow under our feet with our inaction and apathy. It is high time the undue political interference into and meddling with the affairs of the bureaucracy is ended and patronization of some officers, who would eventually earn a bad name to the civil service, done away with. It is also incumbent on the upright officers, who are in majority, to come forward and cleanse the prestigious civil service of all the ills by ensuring that no black sheep are allowed to rule the roost. It must be kept in mind that those who have put their conscience on sale can be bought by anyone who pays more.

Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) has, time and again, presented very practicable suggestions in this regard. We earnestly hope that the authorities concerned pay heed to these recommendations in order to make our bureaucracy a vibrant and delivery-oriented organization, which holds the national interest and public service supreme.

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