DMG – Monolith Empire or Unsung Heroes? – By Qudrat Ullah

Recently concluded shendful campaigning of Punjab chapter of PCS Officers against their more privileged counterpart- the District Management Group or more commonly called the DMG, has opened a new debate in the press about the extraordinary role played by the Civil Service of Pakistan in the national development and political affairs. Different opinions have already been expressed by media-men and the Columnists about the issue. One veteran Urdu columnist even went on to blame the DMG for all ills, especially the political frustration of Bengalis, consequently resulting in the ignominious surrender of Pakistani armed forces before Indian in 1971. However, what he did not know or fail to mention is that the DMG was officially created after the promulgation of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan by late ZA Bhutto in 1973 and therefore, it cannot be blamed for anything happening much before its making. Civil Service, in some way, is a victim of circumstances; it often has to work in odd or miserable circumstances as politicians have, time and again, proved their ineptness in judicious administration and therefore, Civil Servants are the only available option available to the people. In fact, Pakistani politicians’ approach towards governance is limited to pleasing their voters and rules are often violated to gain some political mileage. Lack of any parliamentary institution to train the politicians further aggravates the situation.

It is, therefore, important to objectively study the historical role played by the elite Civil Service of Pakistan in the debacle of 1971 and afterwards because they are the inalienable organ of the State.

Historically speaking, Eastern and Western wings of newly created State of Pakistan in 1947 were geographically separated by 1100 miles and a hegemonic enemy the size and might of India was in between them. Both wings were unlike in many ways; population and resources were totally imbalanced, and Eastern Pakistani elite felt culturally threatened when the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah announced that Urdu would be the sole national language. The mainly urban unrest over the issue of Bengali language set the future course of uneasy bilateral relations between the two antagonist wings till 1971, when violent disturbances gave India ‘the chance of the century’ to benefit upon. Bureaucracy in then East Pakistan cannot be solely blamed as decade-long Ayubian dictatorship realized to the majority Bengalis that West Pakistanis will never accept their legitimate demands. It may be added here that after the dismemberment of united Pakistan, 89 Bengali CSPs opted for the newly created state of Bangladesh in 1972, and 28 of them were senior Officers working in the federal Secretariat in Islamabad. The much debated Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission Report also flings ample light on the causes of separation of Eastern wing.  It has never accused Civil Servants for East Pakistan tragedy.

It is particular to realize that Civil Servants, everywhere in the world, are taught to strictly follow the rules and policy instructions of the party in power. They gain their strength from the rule of law and popular public support. The British Raj gave them this necessary strength by strictly adhering to rules and regulations. The British successfully ruled India with no more than 1500 ICS when infrastructure was very inadequate and modest.

While, in the case of Pakistan, democracy remained mostly hostage to military interventions and lack of allegiance to rule of law added to the deteriorating of situation. In this tangible situation, civil Servants, alone, cannot be blamed for our national ills. The whole nation is also accountable for any breach of law as it has adopted an attitude of an impassive bystander; recent Sialkot lynching incident is but a valid proof of it. We should learn to struggle for the rule of law and give support to the competent and honest Officers so that mantra of good governance could be materialized.

Over the period of time after the turbulent 1971, DMG has emerged as the most powerful and prestigious service-cadre, being responsible for district administration because of their competence and professionalism. What they needed is political and public support for reforms. The 2001 Local Governance Ordinance, however, has dealt a severe blow to the power and prestige of the DMG by replacing the position of Deputy Commissioner with District Coordination Officer and transferring many of the powers of DC to Nazim. But the new system has also failed to deliver and died too early.

The Civil Servants are crème de la crème of the society who are chosen through a tough competitive examination. Their potentials are further polished, through trainings, to emerge as best leaders, team players and role models who could serve the people with dedication and competence. However, their function is limited within prescribed rules and regulations. Their life is not a bed of roses. Civil Servants often have to perform their duties in the worst situations like that of 1971 and now of Balochistan and restive parts of Swat and FATA.

The role of well trained, efficient and dedicated Civil Service for the well being of the people is self-evident. No good governance agenda could be achieved without an efficient Civil Service. This is what the British learnt in Sub-Continent, who effectively administered the vast continent with a small yet well-trained and professional Indian Civil Service. If we also want to make Pakistan a developed and prosperous State, then Civil Service should be allowed to work independently and according to rules and regulations.

This is what the media should project, instead.

2 responses to “DMG – Monolith Empire or Unsung Heroes? – By Qudrat Ullah”

  1. There can never be one reason for the debacle of anything. One has to look at various angles. Civil servants are followers and they need to be given the right policy to work on. Unfortunately because of limited civil/political rule, the civil servants have been predominantly the policy formulators. Off course, they are trained to be followers and not leaders.

  2. Free them from political interference and let them work freely according to Rules and Regulations and then see what they are capable of. When they are strong institutions like Judiciary to defend them when they stand up against injustice within the system from politicians, you will get good governance.