Changes — yet again

Rate of change reflects serious problems between the elected government and the bureaucracy

September 09, 2021

Quickfire bureaucratic reshuffles continue in Punjab, most notably with Inam Ghani losing his job as Punjab Police chief. His replacement, Sardar Ali Khan, is the seventh IG appointed in the province in just three years. Ghani has been put in charge of Pakistan Railways Police. Meanwhile, the country’s largest province also has a new chief secretary — the fifth during the PTI’s government — in Kamran Ali Afzal.

The rate of change reflects serious problems between the elected government and the bureaucracy. The fact that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has been unable to find bureaucrats who work well with him to fill two of the most important posts in the government is also concerning. But it is not as if the federal government has fared much better. Bureaucrats need time to settle in if they are to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. The PTI has not allowed this to happen. In some cases, it was failures on the part of the bureaucrats — think back to the previous FBR chairman’s removal over the hacking fiasco.

In other cases, however, it was differences between the political leadership and the bureaucrats which is very concerning because many of the short-tenured bureaucrats had sterling reputations when they were appointed. It should also be noted that, even though they are appointed by the government of the day, bureaucrats swear oaths to the Constitution of Pakistan, and not the CM or PM. With this in mind, it is difficult to assume that these are all ‘bad’ officers. It would seem more likely that some of them called out their bosses’ poor decision-making, or worse, illegal orders.

Of course, sacking bureaucrats with a spine is nothing unusual in Pakistan. The PPP and the PML-N were — and remain — regular offenders, protecting notorious officers while punishing honest ones. Musharraf, Zia, and the Khans were no different. But by hook or by crook, they all quickly developed some semblance of a working relationship with the bureaucracy. The same cannot be said for the PTI.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2021.

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