Pakistan’s bureaucracy is facing sordid and abhorrent challenges. A brilliant book “The Culture Of Power and Governance of Pakistan 1947-2008” written by one of the renowned historians of Pakistan from Quaid-e-Azam University, Dr Ilhan Niaz, offers an intriguing analysis of Pakistan’s bureaucracy and its crisis. According to him Pakistan’s governance draws its inspiration from the continental bureaucratic empires in the subcontinent. “The culture of arbitrariness in decision-making and execution, overriding tendency to treat state as personal estate and to treat the state’s servants as personal servants all are corollaries of continental bureaucratic empires[1]” (p.5). After colonizing the subcontinent, Britain faced some difficulties in dealing with the empire because the exposure of the subcontinent was contrary to that of their own homeland. They endeavored to alter the nature of state in the Subcontinent but various facets of continental bureaucratic empires were again included.

Furthermore, in 1949 the Governor of Punjab Francis Mudie moaned about the interference of Minister Mamdot in administrative affairs and warned Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan of terrifying consequences due to the intervention of ministers in affairs they are not skillful at. He also indicated that the perpetuation of this issue of intervention could lead to the evaporation of democracy[2]. It means Pakistani political elite had sowed the seeds of destruction when Pakistan was at its embryonic stage and yet to be stable. The politicians lacked the leadership acumen and invited undemocratic forces like the military establishment to be political engineers. In elections, the “basic democracies” system of Ayub Khan used bureaucrats (CSPs) as political figures to bag votes. Yahya Khan overshadowed the CSPs and blocked the path of decision making for higher bureaucracy. The executive powers were restrained to the CMLA secretariat. Bevy of CSPs faced inquiries due to their proximity to Ayub Khan[3]. Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto introduced ‘Lateral Entry Scheme’ to induce highly qualified personnel at senior level. Following the scheme, 5476 were induced and out of which 2800 for centre and others for province. Bhutto had an itch for creating a coterie of official stalwarts of him. In the induction of officers, arbitrary methods were also used and political nominees were also incorporated in the bureaucracy. In 1976, the lateral entry scheme was superseded with FPSC (Federal Public Service Commission). Bhutto could not refrain from giving direct orders to “provincial ministers and officials”. Larkana was turned into a division and senior officers didn’t take orders from any person other than Bhutto[4]. Zia could not bring any effective structural betterment. From 1988 to 1999, the efficiency of bureaucracy reached at nadir. Bureaucratic affairs were managed by the military establishment and judiciary bowed down. The bureaucracy crumbled to the extent that it was not capable of doing assigned tasks. The Musharraf reforms were chalked out to strengthen his influence in the bureaucracy. Military dominated centre was directly linked with the Nazims who were elected head of districts[5].

One fact glares out; bureaucrats remained suppressed by the ministers and military establishment. Politicians like Iskander Mirza left lacuna and the military officers like Ayub Khan filled that. Irony is that military leaders did not leave any lacuna and entrenched their position in the administrative as well as military affairs. With the passage of time, political and administrative institutions remained less developed but military became more developed. Politicians came to know that any administrative and economic decision contrary to military’s narrative could leave their political career blank. Incompetent politicians could not develop their own directions and preferred status-quo. It was a hierarchical structure, military pressed elected leaders, elected leaders stressed on elected ministers, elected ministers pressurized bureaucrats and bureaucrats had control on workers under their authority. Each of the institution had to toe the agenda of its upper authority. Polarization of bureaucracy came to light and different political leaders made their own clan of bureaucrats. Politicians did not pay heed towards structural reforms and politics of vendetta continued but military establishment’s march towards dominance was inexorable.

Currently, the state of the bureaucracy is not satisfactory as it is an extension of arbitrary culture and past misdeeds. Imran and the establishment are on the same page but the bureaucracy and ministers are far away. In his political campaigns, Imran Khan used to say that the 1990s was the worst era of bureaucracy and Nawaz Sharif politicized the bureaucracy. The issues of politicization are still rife but Imran Khan, instead of condemning them, reprimands the bureaucrats, for instance, the case of DC Rajanpur Allah Ditta Warraich and DC Chakwal Ghulam Saghir Shahid came to the surface in the beginning of Imran Khan’s tenure. DC Chakwal maintained that a list of 17 patwaris and gidawars was sent by the MNA from NA-64 seeking transfer and posting of them according to his will. DC complained to chief Justice of Pakistan, Chief election commissioner, Punjab chief secretary and sought action against legislators. Another case surfaced, when DC Rajanpur Allah Ditta Warraich stated that PTI MNA Sardar Nasrullah Dareshak and his sons browbeaten him and humiliated in his office. He also complained to same officers including the DC D.G Khan. Imran khan lashed out at them and reprimanded both for violating chain of command and releasing the official matter to the media. Show-cause notices were issued to them. If officers violated chain of command then Didn’t MNAs violate any law? After coming in power Imran Khan could not adopt a new behavior towards bureaucrats and shattered his claim of depoliticize the bureaucracy. The case of DPO Pakpattan Rizwan Omar Gondal is also before us when a policeman stopped the car of Khawar Maneka ex-husband of Bushra Maneka. It is said that Khawar Maneka demanded apology by DPO but DPO did not seek any pardon. He was transferred on the directives of CM Punjab. That was another dent on the Imran Khan’s vision of transparent bureaucracy, on the other hand, it is also right at that time Khan was novice but now one year is lapsed, still there is no roadmap to put the bureaucracy on right track.

Recently, we observed the way noose was tighten against the bureaucrats by the NAB. An eerie and aggressive approach of NAB threatened the bureaucrats even those who were above board in their dealings. Bureaucrats have become sandwich between NAB and ministers and there is a permanent peril of crackdown by NAB looming over them. Action by NAB is somewhat positive step to discourage wrongdoings but to humiliate bureaucrats can generate dissent, inefficiency and resistance to perform their duties. It is clear that bureaucrats are not happy with the PTI government owing to its actions.

The public offices that come under the control of CSP officers are full of malpractices. Clerks in the accounts offices do not cooperate with you unless you bribe them. They will not let your file be checked by the officers or will throw it at the tail end of the list until you give them money for a legal task. People have massive dissatisfaction and mistrust in public offices. I myself visited the accounts office of my city many times; they forced me to make repeated trips. They even compelled me to perform those responsibilities that they were entrusted with. Secondly, police stations are a prototype of “Thana Culture” and this is the worst culture you can ever find in public offices. Huge exploitation of people has become norm in the Thana Culture. FIR is not lodged without bribes. A handful of influential personalities enjoy massive clout over police stations adjacent to their areas. They can lodge an FIR against any of their opponent using “Thane Daar”. Usually, SHOs while sorting out a case earn money from the culprits and the victims remain distraught. At last SHOs get adequate money and the culprits enjoy impunity. When CSPs join hands with the influential, they further exacerbate the situation and polarization begins. The Thana is an empire that maintains its dominance on poor.

The issues in the above-mentioned cases are arbitrary culture, intervention in administrative affairs and absence of structural reforms. We must realize that these are cultural issues which are coming from the Empires’ time and continuing to the day. These issues would be sorted out through evolutionary process with strong measures. The recommendations are:

  • Structural reforms in Thana Culture because without making ‘Thana Culture’ better, it is a pipe dream to usher in change in the department of police as mostly people particularly poor visit Thana instead of CSPs.
  • To halt the way of interventions in bureaucratic affairs through making and implementing strict laws.
  • Institutions must be in their constitutional domains whether that is military establishment or others.
  • Along with the development of CSPs, workers (such as ordinary policemen and clerks) under CSPs must be trained well . There must be checks and balances for workers subordinate to CSPs.
  • The CSPs must scrutinize the state of affairs in the offices under their authority and
  • Stern actions against CSPs involved in political activities and malpractices but through an effective strategy without exerting negative pressure on those who work good.

[1] The culture of power and governance of Pakistan 1947-2008, Ilhan Niaz, pp-5

[2] Ibid.pp,68-69

[3] Ibid.pp,277-278

[4] Ibid.pp,113-114

[5] Ibid.pp280-281