One of the tragedies of our times has been that the bureaucracy in Pakistan has every now and then been kicked around and abused without any real justification or good reason. Whenever a new government gets installed in Islamabad the first orders going out of the Chief Executive's office have invariably been to conduct a witch-hunt and place soft officers in important positions so as to have in place an extremely compliant and spineless sort of bureaucracy.What is currently taking place in Islamabad and in the four provincial capitals is very much the same phenomenon of yester years i.e. of handpicking officials. This is so as to ensure that the rising politicians of the new generation do not have anyone around them who is even remotely likely to demur in matters of policy-making or in processing the proposals for the job placements of officers. That is precisely why nowadays one reads so much about busloads of the DMG, Police and other cadres of officers who have to run from pillar to post in order to get a posting because of having received marching orders to move to the Centre i.e. federal government or to one of the provinces or worse still even be turned into an OSD for any length of time with no work whatsoever to do. This naturally is a cause for a great deal of heartburning, resentment and dissatisfaction among the members of the higher bureaucracy which naturally wants to be professionally engaged and seriously at work and not idly lazing about in a non-work situation.  Also most of the officers of various cadres serving in the federal and provincial governments happen to be currently in their most productive career-stages and their remaining out-of-work for several months or a year or two years is not only an utter loss for them personally in their critical career years but is also the cause of an utter waste of public expenditure. Also being out of work for long stretches of time without a suitable excuse gives rise to a number of distortions in any society in which government assumes such a dominant role. When there is a hiatus in the pursuit of a legitimate career for a number of young and productive people it can also be extremely detrimental to government's efforts for attracting young men and women to civil service careers. In the foreseeable future also it causes very severe resentment and leads to giving rise to aggressive feelings against discrimination done by people in power. It can definitely even give rise to feelings of intense hatred which are certainly detrimental to the running of a peaceful and productive social order in this country.   The phenomenon that we are currently witnessing prevalent around us is one in which merit and ability is being asked to take a back seat. This is certainly not acceptable and not going to happen to the young men and women who have come up through a system of open competition and who rightly consider themselves to be a meritocracy as against an aristocracy. That is the fundamental message that our political community will have to stomach and learn and understand if they are to remain current and abreast of the times that they find themselves in. Whereas in the entire world there are increasing and rising demands for modernization and advancement, strangely enough there is a clear paradox in our very own backyard where in our country there are increasing pressures for going the other way in favour of adopting a more primitive approach to matters of public policy and governance. This, of course, is primarily the leadership elements in our country find it hard to realize that social change and advancement is the name of the game if one wants to take one's place among the progressive nations of the world. But even so in our contemporary situation luckily things are not quite the same as our ruling circles would want to wish them to be. And yet ministers and senior officials instead of providing any protection or support to government functionaries working under them are on the contrary ever ready to play to the galleries of cheap popularity which demand a chorus against the bureaucracy which in turn are not prepared to give in to any frivolous demands that are based on the pursuit of cheap popularity. Therefore naturally in this sort of a situation what does one need to do at all? Since one cannot just give up on things, the only course open to a bureaucrat is to stand one's ground and take the risk of being of either being over-ruled or be sidelined in a particular matter and then live to fight on. Coupled with the situation that has been recounted above, there is the most relevant factor as to how the ministers propose to deal with an issue. What are their gut attitudes? It is well known that they do not have much love lost for the bureaucracy despite the fact that they now happen to find themselves in pre-eminent positions of power and responsibility. But it also a fact of life that the ministers and the bureaucrats have to perforce work together - as together they form part of a governmental system that is interdependent. When this point is reached that is when government really begins functioning having reached its most fecund point. It is then that it does not really matter as to who likes somebody and who does not like anybody. Together they have to produce good government and good governance. It is that even the Ministers would not be able to disown the bureaucracy. Therefore in all fairness this talk of subjecting the Secretaries to go through loyalty tests and undergo identification parades must indeed come to an end. It is only when the ministers and the secretaries start working together in both letter and spirit that they effectively then blossom into a Government and are indeed worthy of being described as an Establishment. And all the loose talk of having to resort to the Sword of Damocles/Efficiency and Discipline rules to make the Civil Service work in fact need to be consigned to the book shelves as they at their best never being resorted to if one can do without them. Also these bus loadings of civil servants looking for jobs needs to be put a stop by finding a more dignified and humane solution to the problem of finding jobs quickly for displaced officers. That will also amount to be the best defence of the bureaucracy. The writer is a former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister