Home Opinion Op-Ed Pakistan’s Bureaucracy: A legacy of British colonial era?

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

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Dr. Zafar A. Bokhari |

Worldwide bureaucrats are educated and talented people to run respective government departments, not cities, municipalities, and towns. Bureaucracy plays a major role in any country’s day to day operations specified to the smooth running of government’s functions and implementation of laws and policies of the elected government.

While for “public services”– like water, energy, security, local industrial and economic development, delivery of education at all levels, and many basic human needs– requirements have been decentralized, managed, and lead by elected Mayors and its elected council. To run city governments, politicians hire local bureaucracy and police as they know the hometowns and are well aware of all the local problems and issues. Even China and Turkey adopted this world model and developed very fast.

Pakistan is the only country in the world with highly centralized democracy which serves few families than serving people. These talented people serve the interest of 1850s democracy and on top of that 18th amendment gave free hand to Chief Ministers. I am not against Pakistani bureaucracy but system use them differently and the way they enjoy perks is great injustice with other professionally qualified people.

The federal bureaucracy in America performs three primary tasks in government: implementation, administration, and regulation of the laws and policies made by elected officials.

The civil Bureaucracy is a colonial legacy in this part of the world. The British used to rule the native population through Indian Civil Service (ICS) and most of the officers in ICS were British themselves. It was in the early 20th Century that the Indians also started competing against the British and many Indians eventually made it to the ICS. With time the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the term ‘Central Superior Services’ was used in Pakistan and the concept of All-Pakistan Services continued.

The latter consisted of the Civil Service of Pakistan and the Police Service. During the six decades since the departure of the last British colonial administrator, Pakistan’s bureaucratic institutions have remained much stronger than its democratic institutions. The concentration of power in the executive branch–usually controlled directly or indirectly by the civil and military bureaucracies– has been at the expense of the legislature as well as the judiciary.

Read more: Elephants in the room: Bureaucracy & the Privileged Classes?

Like the elected institutions during the colonial period, Pakistani legislatures have often had little more than an advisory or rubber stamp function. They do not usually initiate legislation and serve primarily to legitimize the exercise of power by the executive branch of government. It is the executive, supported by the bureaucracy, that typically initiates legislation, often bypassing the National Assembly altogether by promulgating presidential ordinances.

The major change that has taken place over time is that the power and influence of the civilian bureaucracy have increasingly been replaced by the power and influence of the military. A second colonial legacy is the institutionalization of patron-client political relationships between the bureaucracy and local elites.

Bureaucracy plays a major role in any country’s day to day operations specified to the smooth running of government’s functions and implementation of laws and policies of the elected government.

In return for patronage—often in the form of land grants, pensions and titles—feudal landlords, religious leaders and tribal and clan leaders were co-opted by colonial administrators to provide political stability and collect revenues. After independence, this direct patron-client relationship between the bureaucracy and local elites strengthened the image of the bureaucracy as the providers of patronage, influence, and security.

The bureaucracy’s important role as patron also contributed to the desire of every family to have one member employed in government service to serve as a problem-solver and provider of patronage. In current by-elections, I have observed the role of civil bureaucracy, NAB, and local administrations did things to discredit PTI government as they were hired and promoted in PMLN era.

Read more: The problem with democracy in Pakistan – Farid A Malik

Demolishing poor people homes and small businesses without notice in the name of recovery of state land and showing on national TV channels was a clear example of creating bad feelings of one-month-old government. NAB’s arrest of professors in handcuffs and defying new government’s orders to transfer police officers who were involved in 14 people killing of PAT workers are other examples of civil bureaucracy being used for political benefits.

Lahore metro & rail projects should be the responsibility of paying off loans to the people of Lahore. Why the rest of Pakistan has to pay for the loan, its interest, required payment, and unwanted subsidy. Use of bureaucracy and ruthless use of debt financing for localized projects are worst examples of bureaucracy who partnered with politicians in unrealistic projects. Why people of Multan have to pay for a project of City Government. Let every City tax its own businesses and people.

The major change that has taken place over time is that the power and influence of the civilian bureaucracy have increasingly been replaced by the power and influence of the military.

Money spent on the lavish style of bureaucracy and provincial governments is a big burden on Pakistan’s exchequers. The budget of– Pakistani bureaucrats’ in various foreign consulates– one year’s salaries, housing rents, and perks is so high that a water project can be erected in equivalent to that money for a small community. Moreover many countries watch Commercial Section bureaucrats on the work they do in increasing exports.

In Pakistan, all foreign postings are done without any export target and on the basis of personal liking and disliking. Get the figures of money spent on foreign diplomats and what Pakistan gets in return in the shape of good name and export orders is self-evident. The distinctive relationship between bureaucrats and politicians in Britain has been much noted around the world and often used a model by reformers.

Read more: How Pakistani politics, civil society & bureaucracy promote Corruption?

However, governments –both Conservative and Labor– have displayed dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy, and have made important changes in the “Whitehall model.” Some of these changes have reduced the degree of dependency of British politicians on a career bureaucracy that is insulated from partisan politics. The federal bureaucracy in America performs three primary tasks in government: implementation, administration, and regulation of the laws and policies made by elected officials.

Commissioners, DCs, and ACs do not exist in any modern democracy. Current Pakistani system has proven to be wrong as these educated people could not deliver required services to the people of Pakistan since they do not belong to the town and don’t know the local problems; they are placed to serve for three years. For real development in the 21st century, Pakistan needs to follow a decentralized governance model where Mayors and local policing have developed communities, they live with the voters and hire bureaucracy to run other departments.

Dr. Zafar A. Bokhari is Professor of Marketing & International Business – Chairperson of Management, Marketing, & MIS Departments at Chicago State University, Chicago USA. He also serves as Commissioner at ARDC of The Illinois Supreme Court, Academic Scholar to China, and has been USDA Business & Academic Delegate to Africa, S. America, Asia, and E. Europe. Received Rotary International Award – California, USA. Mr Bokhari has been involved in Action Research and consulted in water-based process technologies for third world economic development. His e-mail address is zbokhari@csu.edu & zafar.zafi@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.


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