During the last few days, the country witnessed a hot, nay hard, talk on the elevation of a female judge from the high court to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The principle of seniority as propounded by many – including the law fraternity – tried to hinder the process of elevation and law to take its course. But Supreme Court Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad stood up firm and took a principled stand to elevate the female judge.
The bar announced to oppose this elevation and observe strike; likewise, a set of intellectuals pronounced principles of seniority and cited some court rulings.
However, the law took its course and the judicial commission finally recommended Justice Ayesha Malik as the first-ever apex court judge in the history of Pakistan.
There are 145 slots for high court judges in Pakistan. By comparison, there are only 17 Supreme Court judges. They must be appointed transparently in a meritorious way to which all agree. Justice Jackson here may be quoted regarding the apex court, “We are not final because we are infallible. We are infallible because we are final.”
The absence of well-described objective criteria for appointment or elevation to different top slots in different organisations gives rise to questions.
However, there are many examples in the establishments when a superseded officer refused to work under his junior and rather preferred to be retired. Is it not claptrap that you serve in a system but refuse to obey its command and control?
Pakistani organisations, especially in the public sector, are losing their productivity owing to many factors. Personal egos and traditional tactics rule the roost in the Pakistani perspective.
As this column mainly covers bureaucracy, we come to the debate on the seniority principle in this sector.
Take the example of Punjab Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal, a Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), 21st Common officer, who hit the highest grade while he was in his early 50s. Though, he lacked any substantive field experience to his name, yet, perhaps, he is the first one who is Aitchisonian, Ravian, a Melbourne graduate and doctorate holder in political economy. His is the example of the first one who was posted as administrative head in the provincial history.
Some, who were senior to him in terms of service, are reluctant to attend meetings he chairs? It is said that senior member Board of Revenue (SMBR) Babar Hayat Tarar, a PAS 18th Common officer and Additional Chief Secretary Home Zafar Nasrullah, a PAS 17th Common officer, don’t attend meetings under the chairmanship of the CS. This may lead to an administrative breach and a parallel hierarchy. Tarar was promoted to grade 22 on November 29, 2019, while he was in Punjab. He continued serving in Punjab as a senior member. He, as a revenue head, was a strong candidate for the top office. There is an example when an AC set aside an order of the DC in the Bhakkar district but there were no disciplinary proceedings in that particular case despite it being reported to the then SMBR.
In Japan, such factors have a strong perception. The country introduced ‘seika-shugi’ or performance-based personnel management that turned into an ideal state to secure the long-term competitiveness of Japanese organisations. Japan’s development is exemplary, to which there is no second opinion.
It is a flaw in the administrative hierarchy in Pakistan that officers lack any mandate to make their teams. Even administrative secretaries, commissioners, DCs, and ACs fail because they have to work in the given circumstances. An officer, who walks the extra mile, fails to deliver. Why? Well, because he lacks support from amongst the ranks, as is the case with CS Afzal.
The policymakers must interfere in such a sad state of affairs where ranks wrestle, that ultimately inversely affects the services. They, though, may opt for gradually turning down the seniority principle by introducing an outcome-oriented model. They may also follow Hawthorn Effect that says workers’ productivity improved when being observed and evaluated. Pakistani organisations, ab initio, lack a mechanism where performance is monitored and evaluated objectively. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government should instantly go for service reforms and IT-based solutions to ensure the rule of law, performance audit and service delivery. Otherwise, there will be no change, and red-tapism will remain deep-rooted.