For many fresh graduates from local and international universities, joining civil services is a dream job, which has one of the toughest selection processes in place for filtering out the sharpest minds. And later pre-training them in the country’s oldest yet premier training institution called Civil Services Academy. Though it remains unclear whether their aim to join this prestigious service is to serve the public or for the sake of seeking recognition in the society and craving for the authority is what they want, as per my understanding from the recent mindset recruited across the country.

To serve in the best interest of the public, a big chunk of the annual budget is allocated to the civil services training programs. As per a rough estimation, it costs taxpayers five times more than that of a tuition fee charged by the country’s leading private institutions. The argument here is not about the money spent on grooming their personalities, but also spent on making them enjoy luxuries of horse riding, and organising provincial cultural nights throughout their tenure in the academy. This continues to remain in practice until now from the days it was introduced in the obsolete civil services structure, left by the Britishers. Yet, we are ready to sustain an additional economic burden, to the extent that they do justice with their position, earned through taxpayer money.

But I have a strong point to raise here about the honesty and transparency being compromised at so many levels, which was meant to ensure that civil services candidates make their true provincial representation at the time of enrolling for the competitive exams, administered around four provincial units of the country. CSS candidates from an underprivileged province, including Sindh, Balochistan, KPK, the northern areas and Kashmir, except Punjab, are at a great advantage of entering into the civil services through a quota system, introduced in 1948. It does not make any sense to continue with bygone policies, which were made to cater east Bengal, and other migrants present in the country. With the continued extension in the quota system by the promulgation of the 1956 constitution, until 1972, and further by General Yahya Khan’s martial law government, split down Sindh’s quota among 60% of rural and 40% of urban population to maximise representation from the underprivileged province and promotion of diversity in the civil services.

The quota system might have reached its culmination back then, however, now it seems purposeless to us, especially when it is serving the needs of some politicians. People from higher positions in the government help their dear ones to misrepresent their provincial identities by getting a fake domicile certificate for few bucks. Recently, cases from the Sindh and Balochistan have been reported on faking domiciles. That means, a fake domicile of any province except Punjab can make you easily sail through the competitive exams by passing it on the margin because there is much less competition. True representation of underprivileged members of the society is severely compromised. Article 27 of Pakistan’s constitution was enacted to make an exception for parts of the country, where inhabitants having low literacy rates due to lack of access to educational facilities and lowest developmental rates were encouraged to participate in the mainstream workforce at the governmental level.

I am stunned to acquaint with the multiple roles a fake domicile can be used for and for further generating a great source of income for wrongdoers. It seems like an upcoming industry to help thousands of university students; candidates of federal services and Provincial Management Services to have fake domiciles going forward. This is why we are subjected to scrutiny either applying student visas and admissions in the US or other countries. The admission committees take us through a cumbersome process of international verifications to make sure that we are not defrauding them. During my LLM studies at UC Berkeley, I realised the strength of honesty and transparency they ensure while taking our exams. To many, it may come out as a surprise that we never had an invigilation staff in our exam halls to keep a check on us, unlike in Pakistan. Additionally, for take-home-exams, I highly doubt any LLM candidate cheating on it because we were bound by the Berkeley’s Honour Code. This is just an oath of a few lines, but to us, it’s professional ethics and responsibility that compels us to remain honest to our profession.

Further to my reader’s knowledge, I should share that the quota system was not a permanent feature of the constitution. In fact, it was an extension through the 16th constitutional amendment in 1999 for 20 years, which has expired, thereby making it unconstitutional to run anymore. With only 7.5% open merit seats available for the country’s most populated province Punjab, the remaining 92.5% is reserved for quota candidates, which is badly affecting the merit-based system. This is why in the past, some sharp brains had cleared their written exams and passed interviews, but sadly could not get allocation due to the limited number of seats. This favour should not be extended anymore at the expense of meritocracy. Otherwise, it may fuel political provincialism. Through this piece, I shall request the legislatures and Federal Public Service Commission to ensure equity and equal representation of all the provinces in exams they conduct going forward.

Mohsin Saleem Ullah

The writer reports for Fox News Digital and is also a freelance columnist. He is currently pursuing an LLM business law at UC Berkeley. He can be reached at mohsin.saleemullah @berkeley.edu