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Can PM Imran Khan de-politicize bureaucracy?


News Analysis |

Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is committed to undertaking structural reforms in bureaucracy in order to make it more efficient and responsive.

PM Khan was chairing a meeting of Task Force on Civil Service Reforms on Friday when he said that “bureaucracy was heavily politicized in the past, which resulted in inefficiency and created a fear among the bureaucrats”. The government would depoliticize the civil services and insulate them from all kinds of political pressures, he assured.

Dr. Gondal declined the orders and was reportedly punished for that. The Supreme Court took up the matter and it was established that the CM Punjab had played a role in the transfer of the said officer.

The premier elaborated that the existing government system, given interference from political quarters, cannot compete with the private sector where merit determines the positions and seniority. He said no system could sustain or deliver if accountability and merit were missing, emphasizing the need to restructure and reform bureaucracy in a bid to make it pro-progress and innovative. He further stressed that there is a dire need to promote professionalism in every sphere.

But many analysts in the country argue that PM Khan is seemingly unable to turn his words into actions at the moment. It is argued that since the PTI has a politically delicate alliance with several parties at the Centre and in Punjab, therefore, it is not completely independent to make decisions and let officers work without any political interference.

Read more: Police Service-Challenges and Reforms

It is worth noting here that the PTI had to face severe criticism when District Police Officer (DPO) Pakpattan Mr.Rizwan Gondal was immediately transferred and made Officer on Special Duty (OSD) for allegedly stopping Khawar Maneka, ex-husband of Bushra Maneka–the first lady. The officer was later directed to visit Maneka Dera, Khawar’s residence, and tender an apology to him for intercepting the vehicle.

Dr. Gondal declined the orders and was reportedly punished for that. The Supreme Court took up the matter and it was established that the CM Punjab had played a role in the transfer of the said officer. Later on, CM Punjab and IGP submitted written apologies and assured the court to never compromise on the rule of law in the future. The court then freed them of the case.

Similarly, in October Mr. Nasir Durrani, former police chief of KP, police resigned from the chairmanship of a task force constituted to reform Punjab police over developing some differences with the CM regarding the transfer of IG Punjab Mr. Muhammad Tahir. Mr. Durrani was reportedly not happy to see undue political interference in departmental matters of police.

Read more: Pakistan’s Bureaucracy: A legacy of British colonial era?

Observers point out that in a scenario where police and bureaucracy are used to oblige the political leaders, it is difficult for the PM to comprehensively reform the institutions. Experts suggest that sooner or later PM Khan will have to take some difficult decisions to make it clear that the law is the same for anyone and institutions can work independently. At the movement, senior bureaucrats fear that if they do not oblige politicians, they might end up losing their positions.