The Sindh government on Friday issued a notice of removal of around 300 officials. This includes members of the senior bureaucracy as well. The action was taken on the orders of the Sindh High Court (SHC), given on Thursday. SHC highlighted those officers who have been reinstated despite entering into the plea bargain with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Initially a list of 500 officers was given; the rest of the 200 officers are allegedly also being removed from their lucrative positions. What is interesting to note in this action is the Sindh government’s prompt compliance with the orders of the SHC. Usually, in matters of accountability and appointments on bureaucratic positions, the Sindh government tries to maintain a final say. This is especially true following their attempt to minimise the role of NAB in the province as well and the standoff between the court and the provincial government over the transfer of Inspector General Police (IGP) Sindh.

The move may be surprising but it is absolutely necessary. The NAB prosecutor highlighted that a total of Rs16 billion has been recovered from 500 corrupt officials in the province. One, this is not a small amount at all. And second, returning the money is a tangible confession of their involvement in corrupt practices – which should mandate their disqualification from that office, if not public service itself.

There is a consensus, both political and legal, against reinstatement of officials who have plea bargained their way out of trouble. The widespread criticism from politicians and commentators alike, and now this order by the SHC should rest any doubts regarding this ill-thought out policy and the fate of those who have availed it. Despite this the government and especially the NAB has been slow in initiating reform of such clauses.

In that context this strong action by the SHC is one that must be commended. Where the legislative and bureaucracy have been inactive, the judiciary must take up the job. It is hoped that other provinces will follow suit; their higher judiciary if not their governments.

It should be a shocking fact to us that as the result of this order the people dismissed belong to the most important sectors of the government. Most of them belonged to the school education department, which in compliance with the court’s orders has removed 263 officials, including education officers, headmasters and teachers from their posts.