The government has dropped the idea of lateral entry in civil service under the proposed Civil Service Reforms- a proposal that was wholeheartedly being welcomed just a few months ago.

The Secretary Establishment, Nadeem Hassan Asif has made it clear that the proposal of lateral entry is in the elementary stage, as there is no overwhelming consensus on its suggestion into civil service. However he was adamant over the fact that that the civil service reforms were only moving towards a ‘qualitative change in ethos and mindset to turn government officials into public servants in the true sense of the word’.

The government wants the Civil Service Reforms to create a modern, efficient and independent service where they have called them the most sweeping administrative reforms since Pakistan’s creation in 1947. However this refusal of lateral entry only hinders this rather overambitious claim. This entry would allow people in the private sector to join through senior government positions. One of the most important recommendations was the establishment of a national executive service (NES) to attract private sector high-fliers, specialists and civil service stars for selected slots in BS-20 and above. The recruitment would be done through a competitive process pointed through meaningful consultation with the chairman- something that is desperately needed to change such a rigid system.

Under the current system of recruitment, training, posting and promotion, the emphasis is on accommodating and propping up generalists. The proposed reform would have created a selection structure that would allow the government to hire specialized cadres, who would be recruited by sitting for separate, cluster-based examinations for each service group. The conventional wisdom on lateral entry is that it infuses fresh energy and thinking into an insular, complacent and often archaic bureaucracy. It enables the entry of diverse professionals and creates competition within the service and we need to ensure this happens. The civil service cannot simply run as a monopoly.