Home Opinion Op-Ed Bureaucracy: Between whims and rules

Bureaucracy: Between whims and rules

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Muhammad Zahid Rifat |

Public servants or in other words bureaucracy is an important pillar of the government; be it at national or provincial level. The government formulates policies, plans, and programs and these are supposed to be implemented and executed by the bureaucracy down the line from the level of the Secretary to a junior officer in Ministry, Division of the federal government or the administrative departments and attached departments of the provincial government.

Role of bureaucracy and what the public servants should do and what not is being discussed and debated quite heatedly  at the highest level in the country following the July 25, 2018, general election and Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) government coming in to power at the Centre and in the provinces of the Punjab and Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah (KP).

You are civil servants. Whichever gets the majority will form the Government and your duty is to serve that Government for the time being as servants not as politicians.

Before going any further, this scribe would like to reproduce extracts from the address of no less a person than Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, to the public servants on April 14, 1948, in order to clear some misunderstanding and refreshing the memory of all concerned from top to bottom: “Whatever community, caste or creed you belong you are now the servants of Pakistan.

“You have to do your duty as servants; you are not concerned with this political or that political party that is not your business. It is a business of politicians to fight out their case under the present Constitution or the future Constitution that may be ultimately framed. You, therefore, have nothing to do with this party or that party.

Read more: Are civil services reforms imminent?

“You are civil servants. Whichever gets the majority will form the Government and your duty is to serve that Government for the time being as servants not as politicians. How will you do that? The Government in power, for the time being, must also realize and understand their responsibilities that you are not to be used for this party or that.

“I know we are saddled with old legacy, old mentality, old psychology and it haunts our footsteps but it is up to you now to act as the servants of the people even at the risk of any Minister or Ministry trying to interfere with you in the discharge of your duties as civil servants. I hope it will not be so but even if some of you have to suffer as a victim.

I hope it will not happen. I expect you to do so readily. We shall, of course, see that there is security for you and safeguards to you. If we find that is in anyway prejudicial to your interest we shall find ways and means of giving you that security. Of course, you must be loyal to the Government that is in power”.

It is a business of politicians to fight out their case under the present Constitution or the future Constitution that may be ultimately framed. You, therefore, have nothing to do with this party or that party. 

PTI Chairman Imran Khan on coming into power after securing majority in the free, fair, orderly general election on July 25, 2018 and assuming the high office as the Prime Minister of Pakistan on August 18, 2018 for stipulated constitutional tenure of five years has already addressed the government servants twice in less than two months wherein he has highlighted the important role which the bureaucracy plays and urging them to perform their duties honestly, sincerely, without any fear or favor, and the government will ensure their security of service.

In the first encounter, as a sort of introductory one, Prime Minister Imran Khan had underlined the importance of the role which bureaucracy can and should play in implementation and execution of the policies, programs, and plans formulated by the government down the line.

While addressing the participants of the 109th National Management Course from National School of Public Policy, Lahore, in Islamabad a few days back, the Prime Minister quite emphatically stated that bureaucracy is a backbone of the state and it must deliver and perform duties and assigned responsibilities faithfully.

Read more: Time to resuscitate the civil services in Pakistan

He said that that the government policy of de-politicization of national institutions, introduction, and enforcement of meritocracy, and transparency offer the great opportunity to the bureaucrats to improve their performance and play due role in translating political vision into reality and come up to the expectations of the nation.

The Prime Minister, as reported in the media, also asserted that his government is focusing on stabilization measures along with institutional reforms with an aim to ensure improvement in the vital sectors including education, health, and governance; the local government system which is being introduced by the government will help in addressing  many issues through empowerment of people’s elected representatives at the grassroots level.

Besides answering questions during the interactive session the PM shared his vision with the Course participants and answered their questions. The Prime Minister also availed the opportunity to highlight the rich potential of the country including the human capital, mineral wealth, strategic location, and other resources and underscored the dire need for better management of available resources, improving service delivery and most importantly a commitment and passion to serve the nation to the best of one’s abilities.

Syed Fakhar Imam advised him to go through the Rules of Business and always issue whatever orders he wanted to give only in writing and not verbally or on a telephone.

All these days, the Prime Minister has been saying that no less a person than Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah is his role model.

Having said this, postings and transfers of senior officers at the federal and Punjab level during this short period have raised many questions and eye-brows of all concerned and in both the cases of DPO Pakpattan and IGP Islamabad, the apex court of the country had to step in and interfere to set things right.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar only the other day quite rightly and justifiably asked the bureaucrats to defy illegal orders like these asking the civil servants that they should serve the state and also warned that the political transfers would not be tolerated at all.

Read more: Pakistan has no servants? – Farid A Malik

These observations and remarks of the worthy Chief Justice should be taken quite seriously by the federal and provincial government but also by the civil servants who should only follow constitutional and legal orders in accordance with the rules and regulations no matter as to who has issued such directions which they may find to be illegal.

The former National Assembly Speaker and veteran politician Syed Fakhar Imam while not so active politically, has been visiting the provinces and delivering lectures to the government servants on important subjects such as good governance, administration, and serving the people purposely, objectively and sincerely.

He said during one of his such visits, in Quetta the then Home Minister of Baluchistan, name not correctly remembered, had complained to him that the police top brass did not obey his orders despite the fact that he was the Provincial Home Minister.

Read more: The Evolution of Civil Services in Pakistan – Asim Imdad Ali

Syed Fakhar Imam advised him to go through the Rules of Business and always issue whatever orders he wanted to give only in writing and not verbally or on a telephone. He told him that no public servant can disobey any such written order so given.

In conclusion, I would request the Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers of the provinces as well as the Federal and Provincial Ministers to essentially and necessarily go through the Rules of Business so provided, if they have not done that already, and follow what is in there so that they do not have to face embarrassing situation and being snubbed by the superior judiciary of the country. By following the Rules of Business, they will be performing better and the public servants also will not dare to disobey their legal and constitutional orders in writing.

Muhammad Zahid Rifat is a Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist, and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan Islamabad. 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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