Much-needed bureaucratic reforms that never were

Lahore: One reason for the inverse progress of the developing nations perhaps is the discontinuation of even the good policies of the outgoing government when the regime changes.

The Directory Retirement (DR) Rules 2020 adopted by the former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to get rid of the ‘deadwood’ and ‘good for nothing’ lot of officers, who have completed at least 20 years of service have been quashed by PM Shehbaz Sharif-led cabinet.

Some officers had termed the new policy as a stick asking where the stick was?

Strangely, all efforts made by the PTI government on civil service reforms led by Dr. Ishrat Hussain ended up in their repeal. There was no question of the time, labour, effort and resources of the nation wasted on an exercise that was rolled back ab initio.

The policy which took at least two and a half years to formulate was repealed in a day with one stroke of the pen.

There is a serious question about it. The new PML-N-led coalition government should give reasons why it undid the much-needed reforms introduced by the former government. Moreover, the pros and cons of the policy should also be highlighted. Worldwide there is a practice of substantiating the decision to rescind the policy of the other government.

Though the constitution empowers the PM to withdraw any of the government policies or amend statutes, the premier should present his best on how to improve the performance of officers who have become liabilities to the taxpayers.

As per the investigations made by this paper, only executive orders issued by the predecessor can be revoked immediately. When it comes to the statutes or rules framed under an elaborate exercise of the committees constituted, there should be an equally extensive procedure adopted by the administration as equity demands. It must be time-consuming and must follow certain mandated mechanisms. If the Directory Retirement Policy was contentious then the Shehbaz administration must inform the nation about it highlighting losses. Why the DR Rules 2020 were impractical, against public interest or unnecessary? Prima facie, the amendments in haste may have injured the interests of a group of competent officers to the benefit of the “other group”. The affected party may challenge in court. There are court rulings that without citing a reasoned analysis the agency rules can’t be quashed. There is a rulemaking procedure; there must be a rule rescinding process.

The incumbent government has said that there was no need for DR Rules 2020 as there were already such provisions present like the Efficiency and Discipline Rules 1973.

PTI’s government had widely propagated and trumpeted to bring reforms in the Civil Services but it could only formulate and finalize a policy of directory retirement. The purpose was to purge the service from the inefficient lot.

Imran Khan’s government had started going after those under the directory retirement policy to send them packing. Initially, show-cause notices to around 50 officers had been issued.

The procedure streamlined by the government, as many competent officers had lauded, was at par with the international practices to send an officer on forced retirement.

There was a committee constituted to evaluate the performance of grade 20 to 22 officers. There was no role of the government as the Federal Public Service Commission chairman was appointed as the head of the body. The members include the federal secretaries of the cabinet, establishment, law and justice and finance divisions. Initially, the services working under the Establishment Division including Pakistan Administrative Service, Police Service of Pakistan and Secretariat Service officers had been under the radar.

Likewise, for other service groups, the boards were constituted to determine the fate of officers under the new directory retirement rules.

The incumbent PML-N setup in Islamabad has reversed all the reforms brought by the outgoing government.

It would be relevant to mention here that some officers who were being tested under the directory retirement policy had approached the Islamabad High Court. The court ruled observing that it was the government’s prerogative to get rid of the deadwood amongst the bureaucracy.

The government had issued show-cause notices to officers, including former capital city police officer Omar Shaikh. Interestingly, Imran Khan’s Government had praised while posting Shaikh as Lahore police head saying that he would deliver as a top cop and reform the police culture in the metropolitan city.

Captain retired Zafar Iqbal who had also served as additional inspector general police, Azhar Rashid police officer in Balochistan was also among those facing the new government policy. Jawad Ahmed Dogar, another police officer who had served as CCPO Faisalabad and Lahore, was also among the officers. Senior Police officer Ahmed Ishaq Jahangir was also on the list.

Likewise, Syed Hassan Naqvi, who is facing an inquiry along with chief minister Murad Ali Shah, was among the officers to be retired. Former chief secretary of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Mohammad Misbah, was also among the senior officers to face the wrath of the new policy. Former Commissioner Sargodha Division Zafar Iqbal, Ahmed Bakhsh Narijo, Mir Ejaz Hussain Talpur, Mohammed Azeem Khan, Waqar Ali Khetran, Feroz Shah, Shamsuddin Soomro were among other officers on the list of those forcibly retired.

A senior officer who could not get through the high-powered board said the Shehbaz administration should cite reasons while revoking any of the finalized policy matters after duly engaging in due process of effectuating the repeal with reasoned analysis. Otherwise, picking and choosing a policy, even at the highest level, would further damage state affairs.

Javed Iqbal is a special correspondent covering the Punjab government with a particular focus on bureaucracy. He has unearthed a number of mega scams while working with leading media houses. He tweets @javedjahangiri and can be reached at