Bureaucrats least hopeful of reforms

19-strong taskforce includes 13 members from PAS

Riazul Haq September 11, 2018
Without reforms in the civil services, the 18th Amendment alone will not bring any tangible change in the power structure of the governance of the country. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Bureaucrats from different services groups expect nothing out of the box over civil service reforms after Prime Minister Imran Khan formed a task force to make recommendations for the purpose.

The terms of reference of the task force include preparing recommendations for the government for legislation purpose; devising a public service structure at federal and provincial levels; and looking into policies over human resource, management, recruitment, training, and career planning.

Dr Ishrat Hussain, an economist and former State Bank of Pakistan governor, is the chairperson of the 19-member taskforce constituted on September 6.

Three unsuccessful attempts to reform civil service

Background talks with officers from different services groups reveal that there are bureaucrats are not happy at the way the reforms issue is being handled. Some of them have expressed reservations over what they called the hegemony of one group in the job of initiating reforms.

“What is expected of a task force which has 13 members from the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) or District Management Group (DMG) out of the 19,” said a senior bureaucrat who belonged to the Secretariat Group.

There are a total of 12 occupational groups in the bureaucratic operations of the country at both federal and provincial levels, but PAS is considered the most lucrative in many ways. The said group has largely been at the helm of administrative affairs and the tussle between PAS and the rest of the 11 groups is not new where the latter is considered the ‘godfather’ of civil service.

Besides PAS, the Pakistan Customs Services, the Commerce and Trade Group, the Foreign Service of Pakistan, the Inland Revenue Service of Pakistan, the Information Services of Pakistan, the Military Lands and Cantonment Group (MLCG), the Office Management and Secretariat Group, the Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service, the Police Service of Pakistan, the Postal Group and the Railways Group are the other 11 occupational groups.

Dictatorship undermined civil service structure: SC

The announcement of the task force for reforms by the PTI government has cracked the gaps further as a majority of the civil servants, other than those of PAS, describe the move as continuation of the status quo. They say that the ‘one-sided’ task force is formed without any due consideration.

An officer from the Police Service of Pakistan says that Prime Minister Imran Khan should first understand the system and its underlying layers, otherwise it will be rendered as just another chit-chat club.

“Look at the recent transfer of 17 secretaries … all of them are from PAS just because they are a chosen lot,” she stated.

The officer says that since those recommending names for promotions are all from PAS, those who will take the helm are bound to be their colleagues. “It is all a group of like-minded while the rest are considered unfit and mere cog in the wheels,” she maintains.

The previous government had also attempted to reform the civil service but it abandoned the plan for unknown reasons while the two standing committees constituted for the revision of the Civil Service Act and the Federal Public Service Commission also resulted in vain.

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