Our bureaucratic setup, its policies and its officials, are brilliant at one thing - faking it. Hundreds of ‘ghost’ employees are drawing salary from the Levies Force in Kohlu district of Balochistan. The strength of Levies Force in Kohlu is around 1,500 and reports estimate that over one-third of these employees are fake. A parliamentary committee in April was informed that the Finance Ministry had extended the deadline for the inquiry into the ghost pensioners, estimated to be at 600,000 missing civilian and military pensioners. The pensioners may have died, or these may be fake accounts, nobody knows yet. In September last year, services of 188 ‘ghost’ Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) employees were because of long absence from duty without any information. In Larkana, last October, as many as 233 paramedics of Chandka Medical College Hospital (CMCH) were ghosts who were neither working in the hospital nor was there is any confirmation of their whereabouts. In Peshawar, last November, the government removed 56 doctors and initiated disciplinary action against 568 employees for their continued absence.

The list of such incidents is never-ending and the problem is pervasive. We can blame local departments and local issue in each case, but the whole country is full of lazy government servants and even lazier bureaucrats. In the case of the Levies Forces in Kohlu, the ghost employees give a part of their salary to the mafia and then enjoy their absence from duty with impunity. Those involved in the scam are highly influential and a clean chit was given to those responsible for this situation in most of the inquiries conducted in the past. The parallel black economy has been allowed to grow over time, and no ad-hoc reform will be able to reel these mafias in.

Disciplinary reform in most cases is promised by the state, and in some cases it may even be implemented, but the incidents are just too numerous. We can plug this drain of national wealth in one sector or department, but there have to be better strategies to make sure there is some training imparted to government servants so that they stop reneging on their duty.

Our civic values and civic culture is extremely weak, and the problem starts in school where rabid nationalism and religiosity is hammered into students without making them learn about the importance of duty and hard work.