My father keeps asking me to appear for the civil service examinations. “They have authority, perks and privileges... you can’t survive without these things in Pakistan,” is the reasoning he offers in response to my queries about the profession. His conviction wasn’t baseless, I found out recently. Serving Pakistan is a lucrative job.
According to a Punjab government document, around Rs26 billion per month is paid in salaries to “public servants” in Punjab. And that’s not all. Last year, Rs12 million was allocated in the budget for our dutiful servants under the header of “gifts and entertainment”. Now that was a shocker. Not that we are unaware of the luxuries afforded to public servants – be they the uniformed guardians of our borders or the GOR-dwellers – but the revelation that such a hefty amount from the public kitty was being paid per month to these servants is appalling.
Add to this the fact that more than 70 per cent of the people in Pakistan live below the $2-a-day standard set by the World Bank. Balance these hard earned dollars with the skyrocketing prices of petrol (which our servants get for free), eatables and other essentials of life, and we get a picture of how high a cost we’re paying to employ these chaps.
I feel that while we keep lashing the politicians for being corrupt, egoistic and disloyal to the country, we very conveniently turn a blind eye to these ‘unelected’ and ‘unrepresentative’ powerbrokers. Politicians might be crooks of the biggest order, but ultimately, they are answerable to the people. The vote that they seek from us does in some way keep a check on them. But who is to stop these ‘unelected’ public servants when it comes to misusing authority (which, by the way, they have plenty). When we’re bearing such a heavy cost to keep them, they might as well serve us.