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Analyzing the colonial style bureaucracy of Pakistan

Dr. Farid A Malik, an Ex-Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation explains how in Pakistan, bureaucracy still acts on the 19th-century system of civil services introduced by English colonial masters. This system has been criticized for being manipulative and is said to only serve to few individuals.

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In order to deliver relief to the public, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has to embattle the non-responsive colonial bureaucracy of Pakistan. Kaptaan cannot afford to lose this battle as it may cost his party the coming elections. In 1971 such a crusade was launched for People’s Power by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) under the leadership of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB).

After the East Pakistan debacle, the establishment was badly bruised. As the most popular leader of that time ZAB introduced several reforms to serve the masses. His warning to the Police in his inaugural speech did not sit well with the force, in retaliation they went on strike in Punjab and KP (NWFP then).

An era of colonial bureaucracy 

The young and dashing Governor (Mustafa Khar, Hayat Sherpao) led from the front. People’s Guard was asked to control the traffic. As the strike was illegal, a 24 hours notice was served for the strikers to resume duty or face dismissal, they were back within no time. Political forces prevailed. Since then, PPP and the Police force have never been on the same page. After toppling the elected government in July 1977, Zia’s Muslim League neutralized the democratic gains of the previous regime. The Chaudhry’s of Gujrat and the Sharif’s of Gawalmandi created a new anti-people force to derail the democratic order which still remains off track.

Read more: Declining performance of bureaucracy in Pakistan

ZAB’s ‘People’s Power’ has resulted in five electoral victories for the party despite its anti-establishment approach. Finally, his son-in-law succeeded in hijacking the party to build his personal empires like the Chaudhry’s and Sharifs. Bureaucrats could not hide behind the files as they were read and instructions are given for public relief. It was called the ‘Awami Hukamat’ and it lived up to its name. For identification, National Identity Cards (NIC) were issued which were then used for obtaining passports without the traditional bureaucratic red tape. In search of greener pastures, Pakistanis traveled all over the world. Now it is this expatriate community that sustains the economy with their remittances.

Following the SOP, I applied for my first passport through mail-in 1975. After two weeks I received a letter that it was ready to be picked but with a request for personal collection. Being an activist, I wrote back that there was no requirement for the applicant to come in person, as it was a waste of time for a final-year engineering student. Prompt came the assurance from the director that the matter would be handled expeditiously and it was over a cup of tea. The responsiveness was outstanding. The behavior of the civil servants was civil not evil as it is now.

An incumbent leadership 

The establishment launched un-popular leadership of the decades of the eighties and nineties then teamed up with the bureaucracy to torment the people and usurp their rights. Those able civil servants who dissented were shown the door. A ‘Stalin Style’ alliance emerged that continued to take turns till 2018. According to Joseph Stalin, the strongman of the Soviet Union; the people who cast the vote decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.

So this created leadership relied upon those counted and established strong linkages with them which continue to remain intact despite three years of PTI government. The darling’s of the previous regimes in bureaucracy continue to dance with them while the conscientious ones remain sidetracked hence no relief to the public is possible. Unless the darlings are shown the door through a well-prepared plan, the sufferings will continue and will eventually hurt the party of change. ‘Naya Pakistan’ has to follow the lead of the Awami Pakistan of the seventies. Like ZAB, Imran Khan is a popular leader who has the capacity to take on the bureaucracy.

Read more: The rotten bureaucracy of Pakistan and its love of leisure and dogs!

Many overs still have to be bowled, the game is not over yet. His all-rounders like Wasim Akram and batsmen like Inzimamul-Haq are not delivering. The electables have been a big disappointment. After the death of two important leaders (Comrades Ahsan Rashid, Naeem-ul-Haq) the party continues to suffer. The PM Secretariat itself needs revitalization. Performance evaluation is more effective than trust alone. Paperwork, documentation continues to be poor. Nepotism in senior appointments is not helping. As he has repeatedly said, he fights till the last ball. Experience of PTI government in KP can be put to good use.

An unreformed Punjab

Historically the people of the province seldom re-elect a government as political awareness is rampant. Due to its good governance and major reforms in the Police force, PTI came back with a bigger margin. Unfortunately in Punjab the largest province of the federation administrative reforms have not taken place. Perhaps the worst performance of bureaucracy and Police is right here in the city of the Kaptaan.

The Chief Minister (CM) Secretariat in Punjab leaves a lot to be desired. Firstly it is located in a protected zone where the public does not have free access. In the seventies, the CM only resided on Club Road in GOR while the office was located in the Civil Secretariat together with the Chief Secretary and Ministers. The CM secretariat delivered relief to the public. Complaints were expeditiously resolved. Most officers complied with the instructions of the CM but not anymore. Senior officers defy orders and get away with their in-subordination.

The bureaucrats stand by the bureaucrats while the masses are left at their mercy. I have fond memories of the CM secretariat under Comrade Hanif Ramay who in my opinion was the best provincial chief executive ever. In 1973 we moved to Shadman Colony. The telephone department was unwilling to transfer the connection. A complaint was lodged with the CM Cell. Within days it was acknowledged and within weeks the relief was provided.

Read more: How bureaucracy of Pakistan could have reformed?

Executive abuse has to be contained by the people’s representatives in which they have not succeeded thus far. For democracy to take roots, the battle for public relief must be hard-fought and won otherwise hard times lay ahead for the party in power. People of Pakistan deserve ‘civil’, not ‘evil’ bureaucracy.

The writer is Ex-Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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