Quota system
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Khawaja Amer |

The Civil Service of Pakistan selects only 7.5 percent of the applicants on merit and the rest on quota basis – a system established to give every province of the country representation according to their population. But unfortunately, this policy has so far proved advantageous only for the sons and daughters of Waderas and Jagirdars having rural domicile but living in posh bungalows in urban areas.

1973 constitution says, “No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth.”

Now the time has come to implement application of merit without any discrimination for every government job and admissions in educational institutions keeping in view the essence of the 1973 constitution which says, “No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth.”

To understand the implementation of this system there is a need to understand the conditions and forces which resulted in the evolution of this system. And for that, we basically require an account of the background circumstances of our civil administration soon after the creation of Pakistan which is pretty interesting.

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Discrimination on the basis of language

Urdu-speaking immigrants despite being a very small minority initially emerged as the elites and enjoyed top positions in Pakistan civil service. Since Muslim League was dominated by Urdu speaking leaders, they preferred to appoint Urdu speakers in civil services. To further consolidate the position, the leaders declared Urdu the national language of Pakistan despite the fact that only three percent of the population spoke this Language. As of 1981 census, Sindhis were 11.7 percent of Pakistan’s population, but their representation in the senior ranks of the civil services was mere 3.6 percent.

If we really want to establish good governance in the province of Sindh and the country as a whole, it is time to raise the standard of education in every city, town, and the village of Pakistan instead of continuing with the quota system.

The quota system, especially in Sindh, has given rise to much resentment among the urban population who are only awarded 2 percent of the quota. The Urdu speaking population of Sindh rightly argues that appointment of people based on their domicile instead of merit has resulted in the poor quality of staff in government offices so any protest about the quality of bureaucrats is simply nonsense and the country would keep on getting below average and unenthusiastic civil servants and it goes without saying that the continuation of the system will gradually ruin the administrative setup of the country.

Read more: Why Punjab’s Education in a total mess? Can it be fixed?

If we really want to establish good governance in the province of Sindh and the country as a whole, it is time to raise the standard of education in every city, town, and the village of Pakistan instead of continuing with the quota system. The time has come to provide a leveled playing field to the entire population of Sindh irrespective of domicile. This would not only ensure selection of the best officers but would increase the confidence level of all those selected for the job.

Criticism on Quota system in Sindh

The quota system in the province of Sindh was enforced in 1973 for 40 years but in 2013 it was extended for another 20 years. In 2033, it will be 60 years of the quota system in Sindh and according to some, it will be extended for another 20 years. The criticism on the Government of Sindh is that it has failed to raise the educational standards in the province. The investments in building good quality schools in last 40 years have been mostly wasted due to the poor planning and corruption. As a result, the qualified and smart applicants from Karachi have been made to suffer because of the quota system.

The shocking fact is the presence of over 40,000 ‘ghost teachers’ and 5,229 ‘ghost schools’ in Sindh, eating up quite a large share of Rs. 145.02 billion education budgets.

I hoped that the Stanford qualified Sindh Chief Minister would understand that mere allocation of funds for education will not serve the purpose unless transparent and judicial utilization of the fund is ensured. Despite the allocation of Rs160.7 billion for education in the fiscal year 2016-2017, quality of education, the school environment, and the teaching staff remains similarly bleak. 52 percent public and 40 percent private primary schools of rural Sindh still do not have functional washrooms; also 33 percent of private primary schools do not have boundary walls. So the problem is not of money or budget, it is of governance.

Read more: Sindh’s Education Budget has more money but is it going anywhere?

Still, the shocking fact is the presence of over 40,000 ‘ghost teachers’ and 5,229 ‘ghost schools’ in Sindh, eating up quite a large share of Rs. 145.02 billion education budgets.  Now the biggest challenge for Murad Ali Shah would be to eliminate all ghost schools and remove all ghost teachers. Moreover, all those responsible for this menace in the Sindh Education Department must be severely punished so that such occurrences could be stopped forever. Unless the rampant corruption in the education sector is somehow controlled the yearly increase in the education budget will not serve the purpose. The money thus saved must be utilized for revising the salary structure of the school teachers which is simply miserable.

Ignoring merit since the introduction of the quota system in 1973 has resulted in the supply of substandard materials in the government office.

Despite the nature of the job and its importance in society, government schoolteachers are still receiving very low salary packages. The minimum basic salary of a schoolteacher is only Rs3,530 per month while the highest basic salary available to a teacher is Rs6,060. A poor financial package, among many other factors, is one of the major causes of the declining standards of teachings at government schools.

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In 1973, the Government of Pakistan imposed quota system in the whole country where the employment and admissions to all colleges and universities was based on Provincial population. The government of Sindh divided it further on urban, rural, and domicile district level. This was introduced due to the higher segment of the population, which resided in rural areas, had virtually no representation in government employment and in Universities admissions. All the universities in urban centers were run by urban population; people from rural areas were discouraged and rejected admission like it is still the case in Karachi University.

Keeping in view the deprivation among the youth of Karachi, this is undoubtedly one of the most serious issues which require the immediate attention of the policy makers. Ignoring merit since the introduction of the quota system in 1973 has resulted in the supply of substandard materials in the government office. Now it is time to raise the standard of education in our schools and colleges so that we can get quality raw materials which can be converted into superfine products in Civil Services Academy.

Khawaja Amer is a freelance journalist. He has worked in major international & national papers including Khaleej Times and The News International. He contributes frequently to Dawn and Express Tribune. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Khawaja Amer is a freelance journalist. He has worked in major international & national papers including Khaleej Times and The News International. He contributes frequently to Dawn and Express Tribune.

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