Revamping the civil service: ‘It’s time to reconsider quota system’

Published: July 17, 2012
Former senior bureaucrats say policy should be on a merit basis to curb favouritism. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

Former senior bureaucrats say policy should be on a merit basis to curb favouritism. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID


The job services quota system has been in place for the 40 years, but many are questioning whether it has delivered what it set out to achieve.

Former senior bureaucrats say it hasn’t – in fact, they’re calling for a complete overhaul of the system and an in-depth analysis of the policy’s outcome.

Article 27 of the 1973 Constitution had provided safeguards against discrimination in services on grounds of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth. The idea behind this was to promote the interests of people living in less developed areas.

The quota system, which was created as an exception to this rule, is set to expire in August 2013. Roedad Khan, who has held the posts of Sindh chief secretary and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chief secretary before his retirement, is sceptical about whether it should continue.

“The whole question [of the quota system] needs to be looked at afresh by a high level commission, perhaps headed by a Supreme Court judge, which must examine in depth what have we achieved since this policy began,” he said.

According to the current recruitment policy listed at the Central Superior Service of Pakistan website, only 10% of posts are reserved for merit.

Khan suggested that one should look into the possibility of changing the policy so that jobs were granted on a 100% merit basis. He said one should also re-evaluate the policy’s dependence on a domicile.

The quota system, Roedad Khan recalled, was introduced in 1949. But back then, the quota system made sense – the newly created country was in disarray. “Pakistan inherited only one Indian Civil Services officer at the time of its creation,” he recalled.

Later, after Pakistan lost its Eastern wing, the 1973 Constitution laid down an updated set of rules for the quota system that remains in place till today.

“There should be no quota in Punjab to begin with. They have several competent candidates there who can compete on merit,” Khan said. He said the same applied to Karachi and most of K-P.

He did clarify, however, that exceptions could be made for some tribal areas of K-P and Balochistan.

Another retired Sindh chief secretary, Kunwar Idrees, said, “The quota system should be renamed the ministers’ quota system … What matters now is whether a minister is bent upon giving the jobs to his Mohajir, Sindhi or Pathan supporters,” he said.

Idrees also suggested reforms, saying a quota should be allocated to backward areas only, whether that’s Balochistan or Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab.

However, he warned of the political ramifications of such a move. He recalled that language riots began when former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced a special quota system in Sindh. “…That is why the system gets extended after every few decades – no one wants to deal with those problems,” he said.

Former Inspector General of Sindh Afzal Shigri suggested that reforms should be made gradually. “One can increase the allocation of merit seats from the existing 10% to 20% and perhaps revise it again after another 10 or 20 years,” he said.

Sindh’s dilemma

The quota system in Sindh is different from the rest of the provinces. Within its share of 19 %, it is further sub-allocated into two parts: Urban areas; namely Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur [40 % of 19 %, or 7.6 %]; and rural areas [60 % of 19 %, or 11.4 %].

Idrees says it is because of this unique quota system in Sindh that any talk of reforms can spark riots between the Mohajir and Sindhi communities.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Waseem Akhtar says the party’s stance from the very beginning has been that the quota system creates discrimination and must be abolished.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Taj Haider said that while the rationale of the quota system was to facilitate those who didn’t have adequate educational opportunities, the dilemma, he said, is that “our education system is producing ignorant people.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Arsal
    Jul 17, 2012 - 10:07AM

    This is necessary to be done


  • sick of this nonsense
    Jul 17, 2012 - 10:27AM

    A graduate from Khairpur University will be no match for a graduate from CBM. Quota system will give the poor people a fighting chance to be on a level playing field with the elite.


  • Not me
    Jul 17, 2012 - 11:17AM

    Quota system has to be abolished.It is reverse discrimination


  • roadkashehzada
    Jul 17, 2012 - 11:32AM

    not directly linked to quota system, but to revamp civil services, overseas pakistanis should be engaged somehow. they r doing perfect jobs overseas and to lure them back, grades system is not of any use. MP scales are already occupied by retired civil and millitary officers.
    at least, commercial interests of government like PIA, railway, Pakistan steel should all be run by overseas pakistanis


  • Raz
    Jul 17, 2012 - 11:48AM

    In the environment of competition, quota system is a black spot on the face of merit. It is a remnant of old feudal thought pattern. It must be done away sooner than later. Further, urban vs rural divide in Sindh and any other places if any is also nonsensical. Discrimination of each and every kind must be eliminated so that competition may thrive to achieve the best out of it. Since the whole world is in competition, the age of favoritism must end now once for all.


  • Faysal
    Jul 17, 2012 - 12:06PM

    Civil services were intorduced by the colonial power to meet their needs. The current civil services structure does not meet the demands of a modern day democracy. A person who has a degree in Social Studies can join Police or district management or revenue department or even post office, depending on his marks in totally unrelated subjects. The best way forward is to de-centralize the process and hiring should be more focussed….right degree holder for right position.


  • usama
    Jul 17, 2012 - 12:32PM

    @sick of this nonsense… Totally agree with you, First Govt should implement same level of Education in all provinces (Course Content & Marking system) then we can move forward for 100 % merit hiring.


  • Dr. Doolittle
    Jul 17, 2012 - 1:33PM

    Quota system is impleted in all government hirings except for the armed forces. Look at the condition of the institutions and compare them with the armed forces. The armed forces, with all their faults stands way above the rest.


  • unbeliever
    Jul 17, 2012 - 2:47PM

    @Dr. Doolittle:

    so, even in pakistan you have quotas….well, i thought it is prevelant in INDIA only….
    good, however, before rejecting the quotas unilaterally, have you ever given a thought as to the good works done by them….perhaps, never…..

    firstly, they may be slightly harmful to the development of country, but they are indeed, good, for the social fabric of a nation…they give the poorer one’s a stake in country’s development, and thus foster equality.

    before you reject them outright, see wonders that they have done in india….learn from other’s experiences…..and then come with strong points to call for their removal.


  • what is in the name...
    Jul 18, 2012 - 10:38PM

    Raz… It is quite disgusting to shift the blame over feudal system so as to settle your personal or ethnic scores.. how come it would be justifiable to compare the student from the elite class of Islamabad,Karachi or any other bigger city with an unpriviliged and deprived one on socio-economic level. The one who was acquired the degree from abroad may undoubtedly outdo as compared to the lesser facilitated ones. I hope sanity prevails here….Recommend

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