AMINULLAH CHAUDRY With Shahbaz Sharif's restoration by the Supreme Court in late March 2009 the Punjab was subjected to yet another flurry of administrative changes. Officers brought in by Salman Taseer were given their marching orders and those who had proved their loyalty to the PML-N over the last ten months are back in the saddle. By now, two things are as clear as daylight. One, that Shahbaz Sharif strongly believes that the Punjab can only press ahead if a responsive bureaucracy is in position; and two, that only a particular set of officers is acceptable to him. Given the mess we find ourselves in, courtesy first the dictatorial regime of General Musharraf and then the apology of a democratic order of 2002-2007, one should not grudge Shahbaz Sharif his personnel preferences. Having said that, the time has come to decide if the obsolete concept of a neutral civil service, avidly supported by theorists and analysts alike, is relevant anymore. In 1832, speaking in the context of appointments made on grounds other than merit, William Marcy, a United States politician boldly declared that he saw nothing wrong in the maxim "that to the victors belong the spoils of the enemy." Marcy was providing a political justification for a practice unabashedly adopted by President Andrew Jackson, when he made appointments in public service on the basis of political affiliation and personal relationships. Jackson had, in rejecting George Washington's policy of appointments on merit, initiated a process that gradually gained momentum and by 1840, was widely accepted in local, state and federal governments. As was to be expected, such a policy severely affected the performance and output of governmental machinery. It was only after the scandals of the Reconstruction era after the American Civil War that a demand for reform became pronounced. The Pendleton initiative resulted in the Civil Service Act of 1883. While some people may insist that the spoils system still exists in the United States, the political hierarchy in that country has tried to draw the line between positions that are filled on the basis of political patronage and those that are not. Generally speaking all policy making positions are earmarked for individuals nominated by the political party in power. A large number of county, state and federal officials are elected (over one million); others positions are filled up by the relevant Civil Service Commissions. Can we in Pakistan, and specifically in the Punjab, learn from the United States experience? Pakistan inherited an administrative structure from the British. The superior services namely the Indian Civil Service (ICS) and the Indian Police (IP) helped the British secure and maintain a vice like grip on India. After independence the successor Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) and Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) helped the political masters throttle the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Finding a natural cohort in the military, these services managed to rule the roost until the departure of Ayub Khan. One cannot help being amused when officers of the 1950s and 1960s vintage profess their "neutrality". The unpalatable fact is that given the powers that its members are equipped with, Pakistan's upper bureaucracy has never been neutral. It has always served the powers that be with exemplary personal loyalty. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto recognised this during his days as Ayub Khan's cabinet minister, and when he came to power, he dismembered the structure and replaced it with compartmentalised groups. His system of lateral entry threw merit out of the window. Ziaul Haq adopted it enthusiastically, the only difference being that instead of political workers, officers from the armed forces were given the plums. The alternating Benazir and Nawaz Sharif governments added another dimension to the charade. Officers were now labelled as camp followers of one or the other. Musharraf produced his own brand of lackeys both from the armed forces and the civil service. One had hoped that the eminent political personalities who returned from Dubai and Jeddah after facing large scale tribulations, would have looked at the larger picture rather than busying themselves with which bureaucrat was loyal or not. This was not to be, and soon enough the games began in right earnest in April 2008. The Punjab took the lead when a large scale upheaval was seen in the initial months of the Shahbaz Sharif administration. To be fair to the federal government and the other three provinces, they did not launch a similar exercise. Since the trend is set from the top, these governments retained their chief secretaries and this lent a certain level of stability to the bureaucratic machine. Despite the fact that officers were carefully selected after an interview by the chief minister, Punjab many did not come up to his expectations as would be apparent from the high turnover in some departments. The ill advised Governor's Rule in February 2009 aggravated matters further. A whole scale operation was initiated and scores of civil service and even more police officers were transferred. Predictably enough the process was taken up with even greater enthusiasm when Shahbaz Sharif was restored as chief minister in late March 2009. Another blow to the confidence of the civil service in the Punjab was the setting up of Task Forces in virtually every sphere of government. In the United Kingdom, such Task Forces are established for sub-sectors of governmental activity. In the financial sector there are Task Forces on Pensions, Financial inclusion of low income groups in the mainstream of the economy, in the Law and Order sphere a West Midlands Arson Task Force or a Task Force on Youthful Offenders. These bodies have clearly spelt out Terms of Reference and their membership is drawn invariably from the private sector. In the Punjab, some Task Forces may have done commendable work, but one natural consequence is that they tend to undercut the authority of the relevant Department. In the health sector would it not be better if the minister concerned is given the responsibility and authority to manage things? After all, that is the spirit of parliamentary democracy, the Westminster model of which our prime minister has vowed publicly to replicate. The chief minister's frequent interaction with these Task Forces and departmental secretaries cuts ministers out of the loop. Having worked at the senior management level both in the federal and provincial governments let me state unequivocally that the notion of a political leadership making policy and the bureaucracy implementing it, is a gross distortion of facts. Federal and provincial secretaries have a far greater input into such formulation than their ministers. This is not to suggest that ministers are lacking in policy formulation expertise. It is more a case of not having the staff support and equally significantly, the time to attend to such issues. Once policy alternatives are finalised by the secretary, the minister has two options. He may not agree, in which case the Rules of Business require him to go the prime minister or chief minister for a resolution of the dispute. Most take the alternate route of just affixing their signatures to the file. The senior bureaucrats are in a win-win position. If the government underperforms and the people throw it out at the next election, they could quickly read the manifesto of the incoming party and offer their services to the victors. Clearly, this is an undesirable situation. We need to look at an arrangement where the minister and secretary act in unison, and this will only happen if the secretary knows that in the event of a less than satisfactory performance, his job like that of the minister, will be on the line. In the 1980s when I had a chance to work closely with Mian Nawaz Sharif, I would often hear him stress the need for strengthening institutions. I am sure that Shahbaz Sharif feels likewise. I am sure that they realise and acknowledge in private, that rewarding a policeman who removes his belt in an act of defiance has not served the cause of a uniformed force. Similarly, a district coordination officer who raises slogans in a public procession has not done any good to his parent cadre. I am sure both the former prime minister and the present chief minister feel an inner sense of revulsion when senior bureaucrats fall over each other in expressing their loyalty repeatedly. My assumptions being hopefully correct, let me spell out my proposal which is aimed at tackling this issue once and for all. My proposal is to assign all policy making positions in government, both at the political and bureaucratic level, to political appointees. Once this decision is taken, the positions of federal secretaries, chief secretaries, provincial secretaries, federal additional secretaries, additional chief secretaries, heads of state enterprises and corporations, director general Intelligence Bureau, inspector general of Police, and additional inspector general of Police will stand removed from the career path of the civil service. These positions will henceforth be filled up by political appointees. In other words, the Spoils System which is more or less operational at all levels will come to be recognised as a reality, but only at the uppermost tier. Since these assignments would now only be open to those individuals who enjoy the political and personal confidence of the party in power, these officers would only stay there as long as their party is in power and they enjoy the confidence of its leadership. All appointments up to what is now Grade 20 should be filled in by career civil servants, selections being made strictly on the criteria of merit-cum-fitness preferably by involving the relevant Public Service Commissions. This would not involve any major disruption, as all government servants in Education, Health and the Technical departments reach their peak in Grade 20. The individuals most affected would be DMG, PSP and other federal service officers. Having cultivated members of one or the other political party, they would, I am sure, be only too happy to openly associate with it. In the transition period, officers in Grade 21 and 22 who are desirous of securing a certain position should announce their intention of joining a political party which would then have the discretion of appointing him or her to any of the abovementioned positions. This proposal, if adopted, carries a number of advantages. First and foremost, it would put an end to the machinations of bureaucrats and government functionaries who meet politicians behind closed doors and assure them of their undying loyalty. Such individuals must come out in the open and declare their alignment to a particular political party. They must not be allowed to have the best of both worlds in securing prized postings under one regime after another, merely by switching loyalties. Second, it will spare the political leadership of the bother of verifying the "antecedents" of a particular officer. It will know which side of the fence he or she is on. Third, legislators would not now need to visit junior and middle level functionaries at the tehsil, district, divisional, provincial and federal level to secure postings and transfer of men of their choice. Since politicians insist that it is not for any personal reason but for the public good that they want a certain sub-inspector or tehsildar posted in their constituency, they will be heard better by a minister 'and' a secretary who belongs to their political party. It would also enable the departmental head to make personnel changes in a planned and well-regulated manner. Fourth, it will remove a bone of contention between the minister and secretary who now belonging to the same party will work with greater cohesion. Lastly, the tendency of passing the buck will stop. No minister could blame his inadequate performance on an obstinate secretary and likewise, the bureaucratic cribbing of political interference will die a natural death. The writer is a former secretary to the prime minister. E-mail: aminullahc@hotmail.com