Administering The Administration


A newspaper advertisement some time ago apprised to me that the Planning Commission of Pakistan is seeking suggestions about reforms in civil service. It is well known that Pakistan’s administrative system is worn out and reflects a derelict ancient temple in shambles. Nevertheless, more than twenty commissions have been formed over past sixty eight years on the same issue and one can only hope that this one will not bite the dust.

A fundamental glitch in the bureaucratic structure is that the whole civil service is based on the principle of generalization instead of specialization. This has resulted in stagnancy and lack of adequate advancements in management and structure of the institutions.

Lack of specialization and technical know-how has led civil servants to make uninformed decisions, which are not always in the best interest of the country. Generalization has also allowed politicians to manipulate civil servants by making politically motivated appointments. One such example is Nargis Sethi who is a renowned and competitive civil service officer. She previously held the office of Principle Secretary to the P.M. However, she now holds the office of Secretary for Water and Power. She does not possess any pertinent qualifications. A parallel can be drawn with Saudi Arabia where the Minister for Water holds a PhD in Water Irrigation Engineering and Management. He has also authored 22 research papers. It is apparent that such a person will be more suited to run the ministry than a non-specialized bureaucrat.

Furthermore, while the world is moving towards professionalism, our administrative system still relies on the archaic “BA pass” criterion to appear in the exam. A merit list is compiled after a standardized examination according to which civil servants are inducted in different departments. This means that a civil servant can be deployed anywhere regardless of the field of specialization. A major in Physics can eventually end up in the Auditing Committee.

It is an established fact that a specialized and efficient governance structure is essential for a country’s smooth running. According to Marek Zyromsky, an expert on ancient Roman history, the ancient Roman Empire partially lasted so long because of “the perfect working of the Roman administrative system, whose one of the main features was the specialization principle.”

Besides, the generalized system of bureaucracy has also been a crucial factor behind the ordinary performance of the bureaucracy. A World Bank report –published in 2009- states that labor productivity in Pakistan’s public sector stood at $9,509 in 2005, while the worldwide average for developing countries was $20,251.

On the contrary, the administration system of developed nations has evolved according to what the modern world entails. Singapore is one such example which places the utmost priority on specialization when selecting its civil servants. The civil servants are not generalists. The Singapore government advertises vacant posts and gives a relevant job description. Anybody satisfying the minimum requirements is eligible for applying.

Moreover, lateral entries have occasionally taken place in CSP to avail the skills of specialized personnel. Whenever these decisions were meritocratic, they created a significant impact. Dr. Rizwan Naseer, for example, is a non-CSS officer who headed Rescue 1122 and transformed it into an efficient emergency service. He was a doctor by profession and not a typical CSS officer who had cleared the examinations after Bachelors.

The generalized examination of Civil Service of Pakistan should be abolished and an eligible candidate for any post must hold pertinent educational qualifications. This is the only way it can be insulated from political pressures. Therefore, it is imperative that the prospective reforms by the planning Commission should focus on introducing the norm of specialization in the administrative system.

Abubakr Ayesh

The writer writes for WordsMyth Magazine. Find some of his other writings here.

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