LAHORE - The transfer of Islamabad’s IGP on verbal orders given by the prime minister, now suspended by the Supreme Court, has once again exposed the working of the country’s system. Also, this is not the first time that the CJP has directed the bureaucrats to defy the illegal orders given by the government.

The fact is that this system has been going on since long and the bureaucrats have failed to play their due role in keeping the political rulers on track. It can be said without any fear of contradiction that successive elected governments have emasculated bureaucracy to an extent that their role is now confined to complying with the government’s orders, without questioning their legality.

And such bureaucrats are liked by the governments and given rapid promotions. The mutual cooperation between the two is helpful to both sides – although rules and regulations are the major casualty.

Former principal secretary to the prime minister, Fawad Hassan Fawad, who is facing NAB cases, is reported to have told the investigators that he was only implementing the orders of the Punjab chief minister and had not taken any decision on his own. Similar are the reports about Ahad Cheema.

This manifests that the two bureaucrats were blindly implementing what they were being told, completely forgetting the roles they were supposed to play on account of the positions they were holding.

Unfortunately, the politicians think that after getting elected they are above all laws and bureaucrats are bound to implement their orders.

The writer clearly remembers a speech then prime minister Benazir Bhutto had delivered at the Pakistan Administrative Staff College on The Mall. She said when a prime minister or a minister issues an order bureaucrats are duty-bound to implement it. But if a bureaucrat sends the order back for any reason and the political boss sticks to his earlier order overruling all objections, bureaucrats are nobody not to implement it. Whatever the consequences of such orders will be faced by the political leadership in elections, she said, clearly drawing a line between the powers of the elected leadership and bureaucracy.

Another example will illustrate the price the bureaucracy has to pay to uphold the rules and regulations.

Ghulam Haider Wyne was the Punjab chief minister (1990-93) and the provincial assembly was in session. The traffic police disallowed a then MPA from entering the legislature’s premises as he had violated some rule.

Legislators got furious that a colleague of theirs had been stopped by a policeman. The ‘dervish’ chief minister immediately removed then IGP (Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed) to satisfy the ego of the lawmakers.

Many say that widespread corruption in society is the direct result of the bureaucrats’ invisible alliance with politicians. Had the former shown spine and resisted illegal acts/actions of political bosses the situation would not have been as deplorable as it is.

Bureaucrats were a different lot some decades ago.

Lt Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan was the Punjab governor during Gen Zia’s martial law. Ahmed Sadiq was the chief secretary.

The all-powerful governor, who was still part of the military, issued him a directive to do something. The file went to him and the bureaucrat referred it back to the governor with a note that rules don’t allow him do the needful.

The governor who was not in the habit of hearing a no, sent the matter back to the chief secretary and the law-abiding bureaucrat sent the file back to the governor with the same remarks.

Ultimately, the governor had to give in, writing on the file that the chief secretary prevails.

There is a sea change in the situation during the subsequent decades. Political governments expect the bureaucrats to comply with their orders without asking any questions. Their approach towards bureaucrats is: “Either you are with us, or you are against us”. They don’t think that bureaucrats are supposed to be impartial and custodians of rules and regulations.

It is this approach of political governments that has politicised bureaucracy. Had this not been the case, the Establishment Secretary would not have implemented the verbal orders of the prime minister regarding transfer of the Islamabad IGP.

Mian Saqib Nisar is not the first CJP who has directed bureaucrats to defy illegal orders of the government. Former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also used to direct bureaucracy to follow the same line of action.

But Monday’s order of the apex court shows that nothing has changed so far and it takes a CJP to suspend the illegal order given by the prime minister.

Still more deplorable is that the fact that a federal minister defends the prime minister’s transfer order, saying what is the point in contesting an election and becoming the chief executive of the country if he can’t transfer the police chief. God bless this country..