“Work with the government or go home”: this was the strong message given by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday while talking to reporters outside the Parliament House. The Information Minister warned bureaucrats to work for implementation of policies and agenda of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), adding that those with differences with the government’s reccomendations had the option of resigning from the bureaucracy.

This terse statement comes in the backdrop of a backlash from the bureaucracy in response to the removal of the Punjab Inspector General (IG) Mohammad Tahir by the government. The bureaucracy reacted strongly to Tahir’s forced separation, with Punjab police Reforms Chief Nasir Durrani resigning in protest. However, the order for Tahir’s removal was suspended by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for illegality, and it seems to be the ECP order that caused Fawad Chaudhry’s confrontational statement.

While the Information Minister is right in saying that it is the elected government that makes the policies, he - and by extension the government - would do well to not paint everything in such stark dichotomies. There is a difference between policies and orders; while the government does has the final say, it does not have absolute authority. The bureaucracy works with the government and is usually quite involved in the formation of policies too with their relevant ministers. The bureaucratic organization is an independent institution and its members- and not the government or a political party-should have the most input in determining its leadership.

It is surprising that PTI is holding this stance when its leaders have themselves stated the ills of politicising the bureaucracy. The instance of removing the IG can be seen to have political elements to it. Fawad Chaudhry claims that Tahir was removed because he was not up to the mark yet the reasons for Tahir’s ouster cannot be separated from his refusal to implement the government’s order to transfer police officers named in the Model Town case. The IG refusing to implement the government’s order to transfer police officers named in the model town case is not him resisting policy; he is in his rights to protest an unmerited order since the policemen have not been officially charged by any court or body. Ultimately PTI needs to work with the bureaucrats to ensure a smoother bureaucracy, it would be best not to antagonize them so.