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Monday, July 15, 2024

Has FPSC incompetence reduced CSS to a game of luck?

Has CSS become a game of luck? Writer argues that mushrooming of CSS Coaching Centres and tricks to pass the exam is a clear indictment of Pakistan's FPSC. CSS needs some standardised testing so that instead of the whims of the examiners candidates can be selected on the basis of knowledge and analytical skills

A few days ago, the results of Combined Competitive Exams CSS 2019 were announced by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). Enough is lamented about its consistently low passing rate of 2.5% every year; the crippling inadequacy of the educational system of Pakistan is reflected every year in this looking-glass. However, this year is marked by some peculiarly contentious observations.

Firstly, some bright, exceptionally rare young candidates did not get allocated. If being a foreign graduate or having a Shakespearean command on English are your suspected areas of shortcomings, then hold thy verdict, many enviable among mankind has failed.

Has CSS become a game of luck?

Some of the acclaimed mentors themselves, who were the expected toppers of the year, failed. On the other hand, some of the average, run-of-the-mill candidates secured top allocations.

A tweet by Zalmay Azad has been trending on social media in this regard: “I won’t name the person that I was helping for CSS interview. The person had no idea of current affairs, local and international disputes. Writing and speaking skills were very basic. When results came, the person had been selected for PAS. I said to myself—what a joke!”

Read more: CSS Strategy from PTI: Facilitating Exams or Raising Standards?

What could have gone wrong? An answer that is commonly sold on the streets, even by those remotely associated with this exam, is that “CSS is a lot about your luck”. One of the exceedingly capable candidates spoke himself in his coming out video, “You need three things for CSS; knowledge, analytical capability, and luck. The former two, you can get them with hard work. The latter, I think I lacked on that”. Should the CSS become a game of luck?

Incompetence of FPSC hidden behind notion of luck?

As a realist, a doctor and a student of science, I find it difficult to apprehend this ‘third’ factor. True, as Muslims, taqdeer (fate) is one of the basic tenets of our faith, and I find it rather beautiful that our most commendable youngsters can smile at their own failures just because they trust Allah to be the best of planners. But, as a follower of the same religion, I prefer our youth to have a greater belief in the texts where Allah encourages hard work (Al-Quran, 53:39).

As an analyst, it is extremely counter-productive to attribute everything to luck, more increasingly so as an authority. It is downright ridiculous to stifle management flaws during a pandemic with the label of Allah ka azaab, and to glorify plane-crash victims of a hemorrhaging state-owned enterprise as shaheeds.

Read more: Five sisters set a rare record to pass CSS exam

The same goes for the most coveted exam in this country. Bobbing our heads at the “luck factor” entails no wisdom; if you expect the bureaucracy of this country to be selected by sorcery, you should certainly expect them to run the country by sorcery as well. Super-natural statements on naked governance flaws should come as no surprise, then.


Hence, selling ‘luck’ as the greater driving force of allocations is yet another way to hide the fact that something is seriously flawed with the FPSC’s checking process. True, the exam is tough, the journey is rigorous, but making it anymore ‘tougher’ would not solve the problem.

CSS needs Standardised checking?

There need be some set standards on the behalf of the paper-checkers who are approving the builders of the nation. Most of the guidance offered in the academies alludes to speculations on “wish-list of an examiner”, which lays overdue emphasis on presentation and obsolete flowery techniques, ignoring any raw and unique analysis.

Even after this whole ordeal, mostly it’s left to the whims and moods of that one stranger who might get hold of your paper. That, we say, is the “luck factor”.

Read more: Future of CSS Exam: Computer based testing, clusters, screening test

The Commission needs to set its priorities straight. These are indeed lucky times when so many of the youth from highly-qualified local and international varsities are pouring in clusters, sacrificing their illustrious careers and working arduously to secure themselves well-deserved positions so that they could actually improve the system instead of bickering about it on social media.

Letting these youth down after an incessantly long period of two years on account of some paranormal forces would only drive them further away from this country. Complaining about ‘brain-drain’ no longer stands its right.

CSS Coaching centres: A clear Indictment of FPSC?

Secondly, the pictures and interviews of every exam topper claiming affiliations and gratitude to every coaching institute in Pakistan was another matter of humor and conspiracy on the internet lately.

There is no fancy for a conspiracy here. The newly-allocated officers spoke with a genuine association that cannot be feigned for the sake of publicity. However, the situation is more alarming than humorous.

A short disclaimer here: joining an academy for preparatory help calls for zero criticism. Some of the institutes do a great job of shaping young minds and provide a platform to rub shoulders with like-minded intellectuals.

Read more: Govt decides to take special CSS exam in 2020

They also provide a great opportunity to those bureaucrats who mean to impart sincere knowledge and earn halal income post-office hours grind. If anything, the academies have only helped raise the standards and competitiveness of the successive generations of aspiring youth.

CSS Coaching centres: Sole preserve of the elite 

But it comes with a caveat. With so many youngsters looking up to the toppers, most might not be able to afford even a single academy, let alone a jumble of those spelt out by the winners. On a holistic level, too many cooks spoil a broth; less is more, and this whole ‘branding’ might be sending out very wrong messages to the youngsters.

All in all, the single examination in Pakistan that used to be renowned for its transparent recruitment procedure and accessibility to middle-class, is morphing as ‘elitist’.

CSS, per se, is not attractive. No young man or woman would like to leave their professional degree behind to begin studying a whole new set of subjects hitherto alien to them, that too against disproportionately risky prospects.

Read more: Why did government reduce age limit for CSS Exam by two years?

It so sought after for the sole reason that the very government which was elected on the promise of providing jobs and human dignity has robbed our youth of both. The only vacancies ever announced are filled on the basis of naked, grotesque nepotism.

In these times of debauchery, civil service remains the only hope, not only for the ridiculed, jobless professionals but also for this nation.

The writer is a doctor and a prize-winning author. She has been published in several online journals and has been a part of various writing workshops such as Science Fiction and Fantasy workshop under the mentorship of Ellen Datlow, Usman Malik and several others. In 2016, she was selected for LUMS Young Writer’s Workshop, where she read with Bilal Tanveer and Musharraf Ali Farooqi. She has also been mentored by Fatima Bhutto. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy