In the first two decades after the establishment of Pakistan, the role of the bureaucracy in the development of the country is still fresh in the minds of the people. In that era, bureaucracy was the working factor behind the name of the ruler. The politicians became active in the struggle for power immediately after independence, even Quaid-e-Azam, the one who gave freedom to the nation was tired of their cunning tricks. The politicians were using their British-trained bureaucracy to handle their affairs while the bureaucracy was not a working part of any politics, it was all focused on reforms. As a result, a revolution took place in the fields of agriculture and industry, dams and powerhouses were built, infrastructure was developed, and employment opportunities were created to raise the standard of living for the citizens.
After 1970, the Bhutto government and the administration began to clash. This conflict was the power between the government and the administration, both of which were the two wheels of the vehicle of power and indispensable to each other. Bhutto prepared a lot of his loyalists from among the bureaucrats, and since then the bureaucracy has suffered from the disease of the politicians and rulers for its survival. After Bhutto, Zia-ul-Haq needed the bureaucracy to continue his power, so he handpicked a team. During this period, the loyalties of the bureaucracy became more attached to their donor rulers than to the state. Mian Nawaz Sharif also used this situation, during his tenure as Chief Minister from 1985 to 1990, he sowed the seeds of division in the bureaucracy of the Federation and Punjab and reserved the bureaucracy appointed in the province for the protection of his interests. Since then, the bad ritual of saying yes to the rulers in the bureaucracy started that Nawaz Sharif had to deny, interpret, and justify. During his tenure, the upright bureaucrats had to suffer.
Nawaz Sharif sat in Punjab and chewed the noses of the Federal government. This tyranny reached its end when Nawaz Sharif gained control of the Federal government along with Punjab. This is the approach adopted by the People’s Party later when it got the opportunity to form the government in Sindh, then the People’s Party started using the Sindh bureaucracy against the Federal government. Even today the situation has not changed. The Federal Government and Punjab are facing each other again today and once again the bureaucracy is losing in this battle of elephants, the test match of bad governance is going on in the Federation and Punjab.
There is no such thing as uniformity in government, management, direction, procedures, interests, or strategy. In Islamabad and Lahore, there is a chain of ministers, advisers, and special assistants, which is increasing like the bowels of the devil.
There was a time when the bureaucrats of Punjab were at their peak, and their hard work, intelligence and skills were exemplified, but today the situation is that the leave of its Chief Secretary has set a new record in the country. This is probably the first time that the head of the most important office of the province is not willing to perform his duties even though he is in the country, Kamran Ali Afzal informed the federation in writing about not working in Punjab. Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi asked him to continue the work, and he agreed, the Federal government also asked him to perform his duties in Punjab, and he tried to do as much as he could but when things did not work, he applied for leave one after another and removed himself from the situation in a dignified manner. This attitude towards a competent, experienced, honest, hardworking officer of the 22nd grade has left the disillusioned bureaucracy in serious disarray.
Muslims ruled the subcontinent, and some of them are still alive in the pages of history due to their other qualities, Jalaluddin Akbar, Khilji, and Balban are still in people’s minds due to their excellent administrative skills. These people not only protected their subjects but also gave justice, and managed the affairs of the state in the best way. Why go so far? We can just look at how the British government came from thousands of miles away and established its dominance in a tribal society and managed to successfully rule for two hundred years. This was because of their trained bureaucracy and excellent administrative skills. At that time, the administrative officers were not taught the lesson of being loyal to any senior officer or minister advisor, but they took an oath of loyalty to the queen and deviating from it was considered a punishable offence. Our rulers though tried to make the loyalty of the state employees to themselves instead of the state, as a result, every bureaucrat kept supporting the rulers for their survival and as soon as someone fell, they sought refuge in the arms of the next potential ruler. Not only state employees, but our rulers also tried their level best to make a mockery of state institutions.
These days, Lahore is in the cycle of green and grey, and a consortium of billions of interests is hidden in this master plan of this grey and green, for which they are trying to use the relevant departments and their staff. This is not an assumption but a belief that the officers appointed in these departments will not become the tools of any politician, but will continue to perform their official duties while staying within their constitutional boundaries. As a result of this situation, the Upright Secretary, Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and other officers are worried about their places, trapped like pistachios in a mill pot, there is a mountain in front of these officers and a ditch behind them. Should they go forward or retreat, what should they do, and whose order should they obey? If there is a fear of infamy in accepting such orders, it will also tarnish their feet, if they do not obey, there is a fear of retaliation and it will also fall on them. If they take action against the constitution, the same officers will also come under the grip of the law.
A very hardworking and good officer of Punjab, Ehsan Bhatta, has been transferred once again to another department. I am sure he will do the best work there too, but what kind of governance is it that he is not being allowed to work in one place with satisfaction? He is not being given a chance to do a great job that he is capable of doing wherever he goes. Why is he being transferred over and over again?
On the other hand, a police officer in Punjab was appointed DPO of the third district within a month. The whole governance is beyond comprehension. Similarly, in one of the tax collection departments of Punjab, there is a jam these days and a cue of transfers has piled up. Let’s see what happens as time goes by.