THE federal cabinet’s decision to reinstate 6,000 officials (with full benefits) sacked in 1996, ostensibly on political grounds, will be welcomed. It comes as a reminder of how ‘the steel frame’ of the Raj in South Asia that Pakistan inherited at the time of independence has been demolished over the years. The unfortunate tradition that the bureaucracy must be ‘cleansed’ each time there is a political change goes back to the first martial law of 1958 when a number of bureaucrats were retired. The ‘purge’ did little to improve the quality of administration, or check graft. Ayub managed to create a new cadre of top loyalists. Eleven years later under Yahya Khan came the exit of 303 bureaucrats — again on the familiar plea that the administration had become corrupt and needed to be fixed. Bhutto got rid of over 1,000 people. He also started ‘a lateral entry’ programme to find new recruits for running the ‘people’s government’, especially the giant industrial and commercial concerns he had nationalised. During Ziaul Haq’s autocratic regime thousands of government officials were not only sacked but jailed and hounded because of their presumed opposition to the ‘Islamic ideology’. The first Benazir government was too weak to settle scores, but it did manage to reinstate some of the dismissed. However, each time the army-supported Sharif party came to power there were massive purges of the government machinery.
It needs to be made clear that these dismissals were believed to be politically motivated and did not take place on grounds of ‘accountability’, a farce first employed by Ziaul Haq to persecute those politicians and bureaucrats suspected to be Bhutto loyalists. This became standard practice and all regimes used accountability as a tool to get rid of those government officials whose loyalty was suspect. The cumulative effect of five decades of tinkering with the bureaucracy is now visible in the marked decline in its efficiency, continued corruption and a feeling of insecurity even among the efficient and the honest. (Dawn)