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Thursday, March 30, 2023
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EditorialScreening of bureaucracy

Screening of bureaucracy

The move of the prime minister to get the civil servants screened by the premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is a bad idea which will pit the military and the bureaucracy against each other, while with the screening of civil servants before their induction, appointments and postings, as well as promotions may not be as productive as it is being deemed now. Though the practice of vetting the civil bureaucracy by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been ongoing for decades, it has hardly brought any quality to the working of the departments, and officers. But the prime minister has now made it a legal thing that the Directorate General of the ISI will act as the Special Vetting Agency (SVA) “for verification and screening of all Public Office Holders (Officers Category) …”, according to a notification of the Establishment Division. Earlier, it has been an informal practice that both the ISI and the IB  keep an eye on the civil servants nominated for important posts and also send their reports to the Central Selection Board when their promotion is due. It is, however, not clear if the fresh notification would end the role of the IB in officers’ screening or not. Moreover, there is a disagreement on the legal value of the prime minister’s notification as the Establishment Division sources say the agency’s role will be legitimized only after the Establishment Division also issued a Statutory Regulatory Order to amend the Appointments, Promotions and Transfer Rules introducing the ISI’s role in the screening of the civil bureaucracy.

The notification is simply an interference of one powerful institution into the affairs of the other department, which would simply create resentment and discomfort among the civil servants. At one level, the civil bureaucracy may feel it has been held hostage by the premier spy agency, whereas the people in the agency may think that they have been distracted from their core job of working for the security of the country. At a certain level, the whole development is political where the space of the civilian government has been squeezed and shrunk. In a nutshell, it is a worrisome development, and for the right reasons, the superior courts have, in a few cases, binned intelligence reports about certain officials, on the grounds that these agencies lacked a legal cover to vet the working of civil servants. A spy agency’s core job is to keep the interests of the country secure through covert and open operations. The problem of the evaluation of the civil servants can be solved by establishing a continuous assessment criteria. The performance of the officers in their office should be a monitoring tool. The bureaucracy, however, has failed its system by failing to evaluate their own performance. This is high time that the performance of the officers came under discussion and they must be taken to task for the mess Pakistan is facing now. People have started talking about the perks the bureaucracy is taking.

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