It is a tradition in the world that regimes change but the institutions remain intact. But in Pakistan, we see there is neither political stability nor institutional constancy. Pakistan, a country that lacked inclination towards merit and rule of law, had inherited the best officers from British India. However, political instability led to politicization rather than demolition of this institution. The first-ever dictator, Gen Ayub Khan, sent some nineteen of the most seasoned top bureaucrats packing as they were unfit in his ruling system.
His successor, Gen Yahya Khan, kicked out 303 best officers that he thought were not good for him. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to power, and he raised the number to 1,300 officers for not supporting his cause. He also weakened the civil service by removing their protection.
However, Gen Zia stopped this practice and used his baton to use the officers for his rule.
They bowed in front of him, strengthened his dictatorship and so on.
However, when political masters came to power, the bureaucracy had learnt a lot. It decided to go with the masters not by the book. There were no dismissals of officers in the successive governments. The bureaucracy had also developed political affiliations. Instead of serving the state, they preferred to stand up to their political masters. This tradition continued in consecutive democratic governments. Different groups in the bureaucracy have emerged that clearly showed their affiliation to their political bosses.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the newly elected Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, are famous for using like-minded officers, though mediocre in ability, to strengthen their own mindset. A group called PML-N officers in bureaucracy was famous in the top civil service. Earlier, the officers had the same relationship with Ch Parvez Elahi, the then chief minister of Punjab.
When Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government came into power in Islamabad and Lahore it claimed to bring administrative reforms to the system. The purpose was to bring change to facilitate the public at large. To materialize this thinking there was a large raise in the pay and perks of officers across the province. But there were no reforms at all.
All this reflects that bureaucracy as an institution has nearly ceased to exist and the sole purpose of public service delivery is seen nowhere. It is the mindset of the political leaders to utilize the officers for their own interests. During the PTI government, the politicians of south Punjab, especially form the hometown of former chief minister Usman Buzdar were in the habit of using officers for their own purposes.
Both Bhutto and Imran Khan became victims of an ideal state of affairs in politics. Both preferred an ideal model of democracy that was a parliamentary form of governance. But they forgot that there were no principles as many elected representatives remained available for sale. They also could not realize that there was no principle of supremacy of law, the sovereignty of the state. Bhutto initiated reforms in the feudal system but his policy to nationalize the private enterprises damaged the economy as the public sector could not run the industrial giants.
Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, both prime ministers promoted politicization of bureaucrats. Gen Musharraf had though promised to reform bureaucracy through his National Reconstruction Bureau but failed as he restored democracy. He had realized that he needed a compliant bureaucracy to rule for long.
Imran Khan, an inexperienced politician, though trumpeted to bring reforms in the civil services but he couldn’t. However, he showered the officers with allowances. He could not introduce any work audit or performance-based mechanism. Bureaucracy didn’t deliver in his tenure as he lacked tricks.
New PM Shehbaz Sharif, a taskmaster and an experienced administrator, would not allow such inefficient officers to work smoothly. Regular stocktakings would pressure the rank and file to either deliver or leave. The PTI directory retirement, if adopted by Shehbaz, may show many sluggish officers the door.
None of the political parties ruling over the country strengthened institutions. Resultantly, all the state pillars are on the verge of collapse. No one has trust in any institution. People question the conduct of the three pillars of the state.
Whenever there is a change in the government, a group of officers feel themselves in a state of limbo. After PM Imran Khan’s government was ‘toppled’ through a vote of no-confidence motion, the bureaucracy of the country that served with the outgoing government also felt itself in danger. Secretary to PM Azam Khan, a grade 22 senior officer, had already been removed from the most lucrative position in bureaucracy. Moreover, some officers working with the Khan government had been removed or they themselves have gone on long leaves. But their names have been put on the stop list that includes Director-General Anti Corruption Punjab Nafis Gauhar, Director Federal investigation Agency Dr. Mohammed Rizwan, advisors Shahbaz Gill, Shahzad Akbar, Shahzad Arbab etc. Likewise, principal secretaries to CM Buzdar, Tahir Khurshid and Amir Jan, are also included.
On the other hand, a good number of officers had been in contact with Pakistan Muslim League leaders through back door channels. They would ensure that they continue on their prized postings under a new government. Former officers who served Sharifs and were removed later, like Ahad Khan Cheema, Dr. Tauqir Shah, Imdadullah Bosal and some others would appear on the scene to occupy key positions in the bureaucracy.
The need is to institutionalize the administrative machinery but it has further been destabilized. When this newspaper talked to different people on the subject, they were of the view that the damaged state institutions would lead to poor service delivery and a poor economy. They were of the view that the country is passing through a very critical phase and all the beneficiary segments of society are wreaking havoc.
They said that the world is facing fifth generation and hybrid wars. While any government can change, no institution should forget that its affiliation, integrity and role for the state remains unchanged. Some external forces want political, social, and religious polarization in the country. The first step of changing the regime is allegedly with foreign funding. The next one is more crucial.
The policymakers should learn from the Arab Spring that led to unstable economies and resulted in the change of rulers. The purpose was to instigate the public sentiment against the ruling dictators which they did successfully. Today, in the context of Pakistani politics, the need is to analyze the agenda of international powers. This time, the method of action is different entirely. The powers that be have already changed the regime and that resultantly lead to the mobilization of the youth of the country. But sadly speaking, this is against the state institutions. The top trends on Twitter that have crossed five million in number tell a very different story. It is the record in south Asian history. It is the start of Arab Spring which could go violent if not handled. Such trends favor the enemy forces, neighboring India and superpowers.
The policymakers should not forget that in the backdrop of the global scenario, all the efforts of the superpowers both from the west and east are to occupy the resources of poor countries. The need is Pro Pakistani nationalist approach among the politicians and policymakers. The role of pillars of state and the masses of the country should be revitalized. Only Pro Pakistani policies while keeping us neutral, both on the internal and the external fronts, would test our mettle.
A senior officer, who served with Usman Buzdar, on the condition of anonymity said that Sharif family was vindictive. He said that the ax will fall on the officers close to Buzdar. He said that all the officer’s unions should be united to face the wrath of the rulers.
Asgar Ali advocate said that all was not well in the country. The policymakers should know that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and there is a huge investment in China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Western powers don’t want such a game-changer project in Pakistan rather they want to see Pakistan as an unstable and subservient state. Instead of promoting blue-eyed persons, the government should utilize the services of competent, honest and dutiful officers, Ali suggested.
The need is to depoliticize bureaucracy. Only those who deliver should be allowed to continue otherwise directory retirement should be their fate. The politicians should also develop a good working liaison with the backbone of executive machinery for better service delivery. Meritocracy not mediocrity among bureaucrats should be promoted for real in the society.