Federalism through civil service reforms – by Qudrat Ullah

While the pivotal role of civil service for aptly maintaining statecraft, anywhere in the world, is self-evident, the historical renovation of the institution of bureaucracy proves it the force-multiplier which is quintessentially important for policy formation besides implementing developmental agenda or bringing socio-economic changes. Modern States have therefore, developed institutions like public service commission to select the best of the best on merit, as impartial, competent and efficient government machinery, representing different ethno-cultural entities belonging to all the federating units, is lynchpin to strengthen federation.

Historically speaking, Han Wudi in Confucian China is said to be the pioneering architect of the institution of bureaucracy, who gave the concept of civil service and being one of the two heirs of Indian Civil Service, our country is no exception to this institution. It is satisfying that the federal public service commission enjoys comparative respect and trust in the eyes of the candidates due to its merit-based system of appointments.

Even among the civil service cadres, DMG and the PSP groups carry more weightage due to their relative importance in maintaining administration and peace. Civil servants’ neutrality and competence ensures firmed-up service delivery mechanism and pro-public governance which helps in maintaining tranquility and peace; otherwise, smaller federating units would grumble, and we are but a witness to this sorry saga in the shape of Bengali nationalism reaching to its culmination in 1971.

We, who have had failed to retain our country the size of united Pakistan, should learn a lesson or two from the British Indian Civil Service- the proud “steel frame” of the British Raj, more commonly called the ICS, whose smaller strength of mere 1400 Officers continued to well managed the whole of colonial India for about a century till 1947. They were public servants in its true sense. The ICS bureaucrats went to each and every nook and corner of the Sub-Continent to serve- from Landi Kotal to Burma to Assam to Himalayan Darjeeling and in Balochistan to reign in the Indian subjects.

History shows that good governance, through effective administration, was the best contribution of the Raj, implemented by this tiny group of highly motivated and experienced Officers. Prize-postings in big metropolitans were never their priority and they never vied for the GORs palatial Bungalows either. The British ICS were not only civil servants but they also emerged as experts in diverse fields like anthropology, history, diplomacy, archaeology, research and administration. They earned a niche because of their selfless dedication and hard work.

The British trained bureaucracy played key role in the initial development of Pakistan. However, their subsequent successors, failed to match their seniors as well as failing to hold past traditions of public service, hard work and commitment. As a result, they treated genuine public demands in an impassive manner, due to which, smaller federating units always complained about the lack of resources and indifferent attitude of Babus in the Centre. This resulted in promoting centrifugalism in smaller federating units.

On the eve of the creation of Pakistan on Aug. 14, 1947, out of 1100 ICS Officers in the whole of united India, there were only 110 Muslim ICS Officers, and out of them, about 96 opted for Pakistan. Today, among them, the oldest living ICS of 1928 Batch, who later served in Pakistan as an Ambassador in 11 countries, is Samuel Martin Burke, aged 104. He is now living his last days in England with his daughter. However, longest serving ICS in Pakistan is a Sindhi, named Aftab Ghulam Nabi Kazi (AGN Kazi), whose career spans well over 50 years.
Pakistan is a multilingual and multiethnic country. Most of the citizens belong to one of the five major ethno-linguistic groups- Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Mohajirs and Baluchis.

Ethnically distinct subgroups also exist within each of these categories. Overall, ethnic character is multilayered & multifaceted and may be based on a combination of religion, language, ethnicity or tribe. Not all of the ethno-linguistic groups are equally represented in the power structure of Pakistan.

Mohajirs, Punjabis, and Pashtuns are the dominant groups, while Sindhis and Baluchis struggle to advance and defend their interests. In this situation, it becomes all the more important that all ethno-linguistic groups are taken on board. One way to achieve this is to ensure their sufficient representation in the civil service of Pakistan.

However, it is pity that a powerful coterie of bureaucrats continue to dominate the helm of affairs in every regime and their hegemonic dominance dithered away the very concept and spirit of parliamentary federalism in Pakistan in Ayub era. Due to their averse role, population-wise largest province of Punjab is seen as a usurper in area-wise largest province of Balochistan. Unequal distribution of resources, lack of political will and deprivations further aggravated the situation in the past.

In this backdrop, it is important to have a civil service representing all federating units & ethnic communities including non-Muslims. We need not a bunch of impassive Babus, bent upon repeating their past character, what they have played in East Pakistan. Bureaucracy should not forget the impeccable character and traditions of their colonial predecessors for which they were known for.

It would, therefore, be better if the Prime Minister Gillani fixes the quota of Police and the DMG cadres as equally proportionate in all federating units for the next five years so that the dearth of Officers from smaller provinces could be met. It will equal the representation of smaller units in policy planning and resource distribution. We especially need to sufficiently increase Baluchistan’s quota in federal services. It would also be better if Punjab’s deadpan Babus are deputed to other provinces for at least 10 years so that their hackneyed arrogance could get some vent in the arid lands of Balochistan or in the Katchas of Sindh, where feudal wary Harris needed their support.

Government should remember that federalism mantra cannot be implemented without realizing the genuine demands of smaller units, so that they feel as equal partners in development. This can be achieved by increasing their role in the top echelons of power. Federal government’s size should also be further curtailed. Punjab can do no greater justice than helping to increase smaller provinces’ share in resources and policy planning. It will also improve Punjab’s image in other provinces.



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