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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Bureaucracy forcing PM Khan to change FBR Chairman: Shabbar Zaidi

As the PTI government appoints its 6th FBR Chairman in 3 years, former FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi reveals how bureaucracy is a major obstacle for Pakistan. Currently, FBR has more employees than it needs to operate, and such employees only contribute negatively to the institution. He also said the real problem is the junior officers who are only concerned with the privileges a government job provides.

In an interview with GNN, former FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi explains how bureaucracy in the civil services causes PM Khan’s government to make major changes. His interview with GNN comes as the PTI government announces its 6th Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman in 3 years.

Tuesday, the PTI government removed FBR chairman Asim Ahmad and replaced him with Dr. Mohammad Ashfaq Ahmed, a BS-21 officer of Inland Revenue Service (IRS). Meanwhile, the special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) Dr. Waqar Masood Khan was asked to quit.

Read more: Prime Minister Khan orders Major Reshuffle in Punjab Bureaucracy

While talking about PM Khan’s recent reshuffle, Shabbar Zaidi said the bureaucracy in FBR is a major obstacle. The red tape frustrates top leadership, which then leads to their resignation.

“I have been through this process as well,” Shabbar Zaidi said. He served as the 26th Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue from May 2019 till April 2020

“Our bureaucracy system is unwilling to change even an inch,” he added.

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

Shabbar Zaidi revealed that FBR is over-saturated with employees. According to him, FBR needs approximately 4000 workers for smooth operations. However, currently, FBR has 32000 employees who increase “negative output.”

He said “the bad businessmen run a mafia” and because of their vested interests, the top leadership suffers. Such rich people also pay less than 15% of taxes.

Will Pakistan ever see change?

GNN interviewer Saeed Ghazi asked whether Pakistan will ever see change. To this, Shabbar Zaidi responded that as long as the corrupt businessmen and officers are in charge, there is nothing the government can do.

As Arif Hameed Bhatti was also present at the interview, he countered Shabbar Zaidi that it is the government’s responsibility to fix the institutions.

Then Shabbar Zaidi explained that the government needs an efficient team. Pakistan has currently 23 Chief Commissioners. However, if out of those 23, 22 are unwilling to adopt a new system, then it is impossible to form a team that is loyal to bringing a positive change.

He also reiterated that the top leadership is not the problem. The real problem is the junior officers who are only concerned with the privileges a government job provides, i.e. a house in Islamabad, cars, etc.

Read more: Declining performance of bureaucracy in Pakistan

Therefore, if the team is not performing well, then there is nothing the government or the top leadership can do.

Shabbar Zaidi appreciates PM Khan as a leader

On being questioned about PM Khan’s leadership, Shabbar Zaidi said that constant shuffling in his government is a testament to how PM Khan himself is not satisfied with the performance and seeks to change the system.

“I think the constant change is a positive improvement,” Shabbar Zaidi said. “It means that the top leadership, who is Imran Khan, is not satisfied and he is changing the baller.”

According to Shabbar Zaidi, due to Pakistan’s “fragile political system,” PM Khan is unable to take direct and strict action against the traders and corrupt businessmen. However, he should know that the nation is supporting him. PM Khan should not give in to the pressure of such corrupt people.

In the end, he said that a lot of effort is required to completely eliminate bureaucracy in Pakistan.

Read more: Op-ed: The bureaucracy should be declared sick and then appropriately treated