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TMCNet:  Bureaucracy in Pakistan

[January 18, 2014]

Bureaucracy in Pakistan

(Daily Pakistan Today Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) In the contemporary geopolitical scenario, bureaucracy will have to change its outlook and re-orientate its attitude Civil service in this country has always enjoyed a pivotal role in the making or unmaking of the governmental policies euphemistically termed as public policies. Malik Ghulam Muhammad (1895-1956), Iskandar Mirza (1898-1969) and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali (1905-1980) were all civil servants, to begin with. Iskandar Mirza had been seconded to the Indian civil service from the Army whereas Malik Ghulam Muhammad, a chartered accountant by vocation, served with the Indian railway accounts service in the early phase of his career and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali joined the Indian audit and accounts service on his induction into the bureaucratic echelons.


Malik Ghulam Muhammad was picked up by PM Liaquat Ali Khan for nomination as finance minister in his cabinet in recognition of his expert role in the preparation of the 1946 budget under the supervision of the latter when he was finance minister in the coalition government of undivided India. Iskandar Mirza became the first defence secretary in the government of PM Liaquat Ali Khan while Chaudhry Muhammad Ali was appointed secretary general in the same government.

Dissolution of the constituent assembly of Pakistan in 1954 by governor general Malik Ghulam Muhammad, and validation of his action by the then federal court by invoking the much trumpeted ‘doctrine of necessity’, was the beginning of an unending ‘viceregal’ power game involving all of the three pillars of government. Gen. Ayub’s martial law in 1958 was a natural corollary of the stratagem. The chronology of events leading to the dismemberment of the country in 1971 could also be attributed to the same phenomena as the seizure of power by the military in the country spasmodically in 1969, 1977 and 1999.

Failure of politicians to run governments at different junctures of our national history is not the only factor warranting the military-bureaucracy intervention in the affairs of governance; manipulation, nepotism, greed, graft, and parochialism were some of the ruling passions of the powers that be that virtually sealed the march of the country on the road to progress and prosperity.

There is no denying the fact that bureaucracy is a vital organ of the system of governance in a state. It is supposed to comprise a set of dedicated professionals well versed in the art of governance but subservient to the political authority vested in the elected head of the government and his cabinet, in a democratic set up.

Unluckily, democracy in Pakistan continues to be a dream as we are pathetically averse to self-discipline; lack of education has aggravated the malaise. Whence our gullibility at the hands of our ‘servants’ who have over the years, come to masquerade themselves as ‘masters’. The paradigm traces to Iskander Mirza who ascended to the corridors of power via bureaucracy. He is also suspected to have been aiding Gen. Muhammad Ayub Khan in his successful procession on the career path terminating in the presidency.

Qudratullah Shahab, a prominent bureaucrat, served Muhammad Ayub Khan subsequent to his identical stints with Malik Ghulam Muhammad and Iskandar Mirza as their principal secretary. His colleague Altaf Gauhar too was in the close circle of civil servants assisting the president in the functionality of his government. The duo wielded considerable influence on him but there was hardly any allegation of self-service or corruption against them.

Nevertheless, the role of bureaucracy in the then East Pakistan was far from satisfactory as its elitist stance toward the local populace tended to breed discontent, and contempt too, in them which consequently led to the tragic events of 1970-71 culminating into the secession of that wing of the country. Earlier Gen. Muhammad Azam Khan, during the short span of his gubernatorial assignment there, had disproved the concept of an exclusivist rule by freely mixing up with the masses with a view to solving their basic problems. It is generally believed that our headstrong bureaucrats, not all of them, were instrumental in accelerating the process of alienation in that part of the country. The hatred nursed by the Bengalis against bureaucrats from West Pakistan found its vilest expression in the orgy of loot and murder perpetrated against them by the Mukti Bahini during the disturbances of 1970-71.

Muhammad Ayub Khan, Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto carried out a sizeable purge of civil servants on charges of maladministration and corruption (conceived subjectively) in their respective tenures. Ironically none of them succeeded in effectively regulating or containing the bureaucracy. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went even a step further by abolishing the bureaucratic acronyms like CSP, PCS, PFS, PSP, PTS etc. as a vestige of colonialism but with little success as to the desired results of the move.

A rumoured episode involving a senior serviceman and a young DMG officer posted in southern Punjab, is believed to have led to the replacement of the age-long district management system in the country by the system of devolution of power in Pervez Musharraf’s regime that too has since been either reversed or substantially modified in the post-Musharraf era of governance. Pervez Musharraf’s reliance on Tariq Aziz of the former PTS, repeats the same story of a strong bureaucratic hold on the reins of power.

In the current state of affairs too, bureaucracy continues to work and flourish as of yore. Political overlords, for multifarious reasons, continue to employ them as a conduit between themselves and the public. So far so good; but when the former’s ambitions do not synchronize with the prescribed bureaucratic norms and actions, the situation complicates and worsens. To circumvent such an eventuality, political leadership has to patronize some ‘loyal’ civil servants who would safeguard its political interests in the affairs of governance besides their routine official duties.

Civil service is in fact the backbone of any system of government. The quality of administration of any system of government is directly proportional to the ability and capacity of its civil servants. We have examples of eminent individuals in bureaucracy like Syed Hashim Raza, S.M. Ikram, M.R. Kiyani, Akhtar Hussain, Ejaz Rahim, Mukhtar Masood, M. Masood Khaddarposh, Masood Mufti, Ishrat Hussain, Farid-ud-Din Ahmad, Zafar Altaf, Ch. Muhammad Ashraf, Syed Sarfraz Hussain, Tasnim Noorani, Abdul Waheed Chaudhry, Shahzad Hassan Pervez, Syed Fazal Hussain, Tariq Mahmood, Shahzad Qaiser, Zia-ur-Rahman, Muhammad Athar Tahir, Javed Mahmood, Dr. M. Amjad Saqib, Farooque Syed, Fayyaz Tehsin, Nasim Sadiq et al who have contributed enormously to the cause of the community besides maintaining a high standard of professional decorum, competency, and integrity.

The quality of governance of a state is contingent, among other things, upon the quality of its bureaucracy. The need of a healthy relationship between the ruling elite and bureaucracy of a country cannot be overemphasized. In the contemporary geopolitical scenario, bureaucracy will have to change its outlook and re-orientate its attitude. Efficiency, justice, and neutrality are a sine qua non to any scheme of socio-political governance.

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