“Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing.”

– Henri Frédéric Amiel

It seems that the federal and provincial caretaker governments have made a tentative start to the job they were assigned. The same is true for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Whereas, the prospective candidates, who possessed fake degrees, have been cleared to contest the upcoming elections. All this has put the people in a quandary and it is becoming extremely difficult for them to predict about the country’s future.

As if that was not enough, a lot of fuss seems to have been created on the issue of postings and transfers of civil servants, especially in the province of Punjab. For instance, in the past, some of them were allegedly working with consent to further the PML-N’s political designs, while others did it out of fear.

While the PPP has shown extraordinary restraint, the PML-N agitated severely on the issue as if winning the polls depended more on the government machinery, rather than how political parties and candidates conduct their electoral campaigns.

One may recall that after the 2008 elections, the PML-N government surrendered many a brilliant officers to the centre on the plea that they were in the good books of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. Most of them became comfortable with their new assignments in the central government. But those who stayed on in Punjab, life was not that easy; in some cases, they were sidelined without plausible reasons.

Having said that, while the caretakers have not made any real change in nearly all the provinces, the Commission ordered the transfer of 65 officials in the Sindh province on the pretext that they had good relations with the outgoing PPP-led coalition government, which would affect the election results. In Punjab, however, the reshuffling was mere eyewash, since the caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab was not aware about the background of several officers, who have once again successfully arranged “proper” postings for themselves. A key Secretary, for instance, is a close relative of an ex-minister in the PML-N government. He remains in his position and it is expected that he could swing the outcome of the election in the party’s favour.

As this debate continues, it would be appropriate to find answers as to why the bureaucracy is being targeted so badly, despite the fact that a majority of these officials had an extremely cordial relationship with the state’s outgoing political leadership. Since the political culture here is hell bent on issuing a label on every official, it has become extremely difficult for the civil bureaucracy to dissociate themselves from it. If this is change, then it would have been better if the reshuffling process had not taken place.

The bureaucrats should not be blamed for the current situation because they will become a part of the incoming government under pressure. So those who think that their loyalties would lead to a change after the polls are held need to do some soul-searching.

Against  this backdrop, the bureaucrats are appointed solely to guide politicians on the intricacies of law and point out the deficiencies that exist in the system, leaving it for them to find ways and means to put right what was wrong. As there is no way, or inbuilt system, present to check their conduct, most of the bureaucrats are maligned - maybe, a few with valid reasons, especially since they continue to support the status quo.

It is hoped that with the passage of time, the democracy will take firm root in this country. However, it will only be possible if the relevant principles laid down in the constitution are strictly observed and any deviation, which could involve the bureaucracy in politics, is discouraged.

Also, it is for the bureaucratic leadership to devise ways and means where it will not be possible for the politicians to first use them for their own gains and then discard them at will. Bureaucrats must be respected and, in return, they should ensure that they serve the country and the people, rather than a specific political party.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.