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Saaz A. Khair
Pakistan is a typical transitional society that is yet to fully arrive in the 20 th century. Notwithstanding misleading superficialities like its nuclear prowess or ballistic missiles. the country is still largely a feudal and tribal society which is self-contentedly basking in its easy-paced and change resistant agricultural life-style. In terms of Rostov’s stages of economic development it is still preparing for take-off. With limited industrial or commercial employment opportunities for its rapidly growing population (almost 70% of which is below 25 years of age) disguised unemployment or underemployment (made possible by small subsistence agricultural holdings) is the norm. Given the ample supply of time people are very fond of verbal exchanges of all kinds: from the ubiquitous chat to the equally common emotionally charged religious debates and political discussions. Thus the nation appears to be one of talkers and idlers. Strange as it may seem to the uninitiated foreigner, for a nation with as high a rate of illiteracy as Pakistan has, the citizens are far more well informed and opinionated that could be expected. The Pakistanis have opinions about issues on which even the supposedly well aware in the developed world are likely to fail us. One possible reason for this may be that Pakistanis like many of their fellow countrymen of the LDCs are confronted with real life issues of hunger and disease, shelter and employment, bureaucratic indifference and political corruption at a much more basic and personal level than citizens in the developed world. Generally fond of talking as Pakistanis are, some topics are national favourites. While accurate statistical data may not be available with regard to what Pakistanis like to talk about most, from general experience it can be said that politics, government activities and the full scope of officialdom command great public interest when it comes to a chat in the early hours at the office, at the all-too-usual gossip sittings or debates in colleges. Perhaps, in other countries which have similar conditions of excessive government and unstable politics, and where people have plenty of ‘donothing time’ the two “cracies” of the “bureau” and “demos” are also hotly debated issues. But whether it is Pakistan or any other nation state, these two powers - of government officials and public representatives - appear to be intricately linked and essential parts of the whole that is a modern state. In countries where true representative governments exist, the permanent government officials or bureaucrats (i.e. government functionaries whose employment is not connected with the change of government) are necessarily subservient to the constitutional dictates of elected representatives. In such countries the issue of functional dichotomy posed by Max Weber with regard to bureaucracy as being either a functional organ of the state or the government does not arise because long traditions of representative and constitutional governance have settled basic jurisdictions of the state and governments. Called by any of the varying terms used to describe them - civil servants, public servants, government officials, state functionaries or bureaucrats, these persons owe their basic loyalties to the state but work for the governments in power which have come into existence and remain in power through constitutional processes. Day to day work is carried out
according to legislated rules and established SOPs and not the idiosyncratic whims of politicians in power. However, in countries which do not have the good fortune to be ruled according to the true wishes of their people or even laws which have been otherwise legislated the situation becomes very different. It is here that government officials must make their own decisions as to who is their employer, the state or the government in power, that is if there is any difference between the two. In many cases, the de facto powers of apparently democratically elected politicians also far exceed what could be considered the norms of good governance. Usually the law of survival dictates that the difference between state and government is put aside for the time being and the person or group in power be accepted as the full and only arbitrator of rightful government. There is yet another situation that of countries where political instability has been the rule. Here dictatorship and democracy have played hide and seek and the latter has not been able to take root in the national ethos. Here the permanent government employees, especially those in offices which have a significant bearing upon national policy making and its execution on a day to day basis, see themselves as a constant factor that provides continuity from one period to another. However, as can perhaps be expected, the bureaucrats in such political situations go beyond merely providing the much needed continuity in an unstable political environment, and tend to directly or indirectly provide the missing links in the political leadership. The Pakistani situation and that of its civil servants resembles this last case most closely. Indeed as will be borne out later, this situation may be equated to a zero-sum game where a gain of power and prestige by politicians has traditionally meant an equal and opposite loss by bureaucrats and vice versa. Pakistan has been a classic example of Third World political instability and chaos, so much so that leading scholars have chosen to name their books on the country as The Enigma of Political Development (Ziring) or From Crisis to Crisis (Feldman). Fifty years into its existence the roles of the three groups that have run the country - the politicians, soldiers and bureaucrats have yet to be finally decided. The role of the people of Pakistan in its governing has, unfortunately, been fairly minimal. Even in the limited periods when democracy has existed it has been of varieties restricted either by prevalent socio-political conditions that do not provide equality of opportunity for the constituents or by manipulative politics of dictators and demagogues garbed in the camouflage of electoral popularity. Of recent the judiciary has also become fairly involved in national politics, at least in the public perception, if only by way of its interpretation of the Constitution which has at times bounded on legislative The massive illiteracy combined with a non-proportional system of representation has meant that democratic governments do not enjoy a true mandate of the people. A weak party system, has led to floor-crossings being the norm (until the present parliament which is restricted by a anti-defection law) which has in turn led to weak oppositions. Governments have been placed in power with as little as a third of the total popular vote. In other situations “non-party elections” have led to an almost immediate formation of “the government party” allegedly prompting one provincial Chief Minister to claim that he had never been guilty of the rather unbecoming conduct of floor-crossing as he had always been in one party i.e. the government party.
Pakistan, like most other countries born out of former colonial empires has had a very bureaucratic past. Even when the areas now constituting the country were governed as part of local empires, the rulers were very distant from their subjects and the only channel bringing these two together were the “royal servants.” As a reminder of that period, the two most common terms for bureaucrats in the Pakistan national language Urdu continue to be naukar-e-shahi (royal servants) and afsar-e-shahi (royal officials). Indeed, the coming of the colonial power made little or no difference for the great majority of the people. Rudimentary democratic practices did exist in local tribal and peer groups but democracy in the modern sense of a system of government by peoples’ representatives chosen by universal suffrage was a new concept that was paradoxically introduced by alien rulers who had come a long way to set up an empire. Considerations like the great distance to the imperial capital and high cost of bringing and maintaining expatriate officials as well as general political expediency meant that the new rulers required local mediators to execute the policies developed by the home country for driving maximum benefit from the territories under their control. Thus, developed the British Indian bureaucratic state which one author has called “one of the most remarkable and successful bureaucracies developed in any country.” At the centre of this bureaucracy was an organisation called the Indian Civil Service (ICS). The members of this organisation, which was termed variously as a “governing corporation” and “the steel frame on which British rule in India rested” were perhaps the best known of all bureaucrats anywhere. Patterned on the Guardians of Plato and the Mandarins of China, these officers became known as the “heaven born” and the “kept class”. This group was specially created to serve as the executors of Whitehall’s commands. Initially closed to Indians, the ICS in time became the instrument of gradual change through which the colonial power wanted to introduce reform aimed at a final realisation of the goal of responsible self-government in the “crown jewel of the British Empire”. In 1915, Indians comprised only five percent of the ICS, but the various reform commissions assigned the task of enhancing this proportion envisaged that in time at least fifty percent of the senior government employees of British India became Indians. This figure that came close to being achieved until it was pre-empted by the outbreak of World War II at which time some forty percent of ICS officers were Indians. But while these officers were nominally Indian, they were more of “Brown Englishmen” than Indian both in overall appearance and mental outlook by virtue of having been brought up in the iron-cast mould of their masters, This system of Indianisation of the civil service came about at a time when another equally remarkable modern concept was gaining popularity with Indians: their first flirtation with the Western democracy and the processes of self government. However, the British did not proceed with the developments in Indianisation of ICS and introduction of representative self-government hand in hand. The reasons for this imbalance in developing a home-grown bureaucracy and home-grown breed of democrats were easily understandable. For one, howsoever benevolent colonialists that the British may have been (compared to their Dutch, French and Italian contemporaries), they were still an alien power holding on to a vast area and population for the primary intent of achieving their imperialist designs. Secondly, the Indians were far from being a homogeneous community in which democracy could be practiced as in the West: they were badly fragmented on religious, caste and ethnic lines in which the possibility of a religious or ethnic majority permanently dominating
the minority community was more than likely. Thirdly, democratic aspirations were deliberately shunned by and/ or simply beyond the historical and intellectual experience of many Indians including the hereditary rulers of the princely states, the influential members of the landed aristocracy or the illiterate masses. In short democracy was an idea whose time had not come in the India of the early 20th century. Seen retrospectively, the movement towards Indian independence did not come of age until perhaps 15 or 20 years before independence. Even at the time of the unilateral decision by the Labour government to pull out of India by a self-imposed deadline, as famous a British leader as Churchill expressed deep reservations and future apprehensions over the Indians’ inability for self-governance. Many British genuinely believed that the natives still required extensive training in good governance under their benevolent patronage.. To an extent they may have been correct. Indeed, not too many Indians had been schooled in the delicate art of democracy. To the Muslims democracy equated the unquotable: a moral, intellectual, and minority of true Muslim believers acting as the guardian fathers of a theo-centric state could never be ousted by mere numbers of commoners licking in good morals, thought and Islamic belief. Governance was a prerogative of the wise and good few. Muslim leaders also expressed apprehensions that democracy was not possible in a country divided into a permanent religio-political majority and an equally permanent religio-political minority. Thus, when independence came the institutions of bureaucracy and democracy these two largest of Indian communities differed greatly in their strengths. Indian politics of this period revolved around a few great names and the two great parties the Congress and the Muslim League could have been identified with a handful of leaders. Party activists comprised mostly of youthful university students, lawyers, journalists, liberal agriculturists and a mix of the mostly urbanized middleclass from the more Central of India’s provinces - the Punjab, U.P., C.P., Bihar, Maharashtra and Gujrat. Unlike these fledging democratic institutions which could only trace their beginning to 1885 when a British Indian civil servant initiated the establishment of a forum for socio-political discussion, (later the Indian National Congress), the “royal servants” had a much longer history of significant involvement in the running of India, and of evolving into an institution. Throughout the world, democracy had evolved out of long drawn and often bloody struggle between forces of authority and liberty. In India this struggle was not between indigenous people and local monarchs but a constitutional, generally nonviolent, and relatively short movement against alien domination made possible in the first place by the rather benign attitude of the occupying power and other international events. In contrast bureaucracy is, everywhere, an institution in which authority is delegated by a higher power to persons enjoying its favour in order to carry out day to day business. It is this perception of “higher authority” on part of the players in a democratic polity which governs the relationship between politicians and state functionaries. If the higher authority is that of constitutional supremacy, the bureaucrats are likely to follow a more objective and mature course of actions. On the other hand if the power of the bureaucrats flows directly from the wishes of the government in power, then an unscrupulous, immoral and partial institution will be the logical result. In India the rule of the British was not too strange in so far as the fact that foreign occupying powers were not new to this part. Indeed if anything the British could easily justify their
colonization of India on the basis of a more benevolent rule that provided far more in terms of justice and welfare for the highly pluralistic population than earlier foreign or home-bred rulers. The movement of India towards independence took what is now a familiar road: growth of education, industrialization, liberal values and popular awareness of the right of self-determination taking place in the back-drop of the rise of the nationstate and rapid economic globalization. But India was a vast country that posed some unusual problems. One of these was its lack of true unity. Like the nation at large the development of Indian politics towards selfgovernment could also be easily divided into Muslim and Hindu spheres. Muslims had been warned early of the pitfalls of democracy: The Muslim League, which laid claim to be the sole representative of Indian Muslims, began with certain fundamental premises and problems. The League based its representative claim of the basis of absolute and unbridgeable gap between the two communities; it expounded the concept of “separate Hindu and Muslim electorates” Much that the League’s constituency increasingly included Muslims from all areas and all socio-economic classes, the party leadership remained concentrated in the hands of middle to large landowners (mostly from U.P. and Punjab) and the urban elite. Although powerful in their own right, these people were products of a colonial period and a system in which ICS officers, particularly the District Magistrates, were virtually legal sovereigns. Most of these Muslim leaders, especially the landlords represented the conservative rather than the revolutionary forces. It was for these socalled Muslim activists that Mr. Jinnah, not yet the Quaid-i-Azam, said in 1932, “The Muslim Camp is full of those spineless people, who whatever them may say to me, will consult the Deputy Commissioner about what they should do”. But the people did what appeared logical: independence was no where in sight while the Deputy Commissioner was the true symbol of British rule: A population of over 600 million governed by a few hundred civil and military officers. It may also be interesting to note the observations of another well known Pakistan-scholar, Khalid bin Saeed regarding the role of the Deputy Commissioner in the 1937 elections when the newly organized Muslim League had the first test of its claim as representative of all Indian Muslims. In Punjab where the Muslim landlords enjoyed outright superiority, the League had a terrible taste of defeat. It received only one seat out of eighty-six reserved Muslim seats; victory went to the Unionist Party whose leaders were by and large the Muslim landed aristocracy. They took most of the reserved Muslim seats and a clear majority of the total. Saeed attributes this victory to the support of a triumvirate consisting of the landlords, their spiritual counterparts, the pirs and the Deputy Commissioner. This in one of the first examples of direct interference of bureaucrats in the representative politics in India. The study continues to highlight this point by noting that the Muslim League accused the colonial officials including the governor of direct attempts to favour the Unionists who had been predicted to win by the highest representative of the Crown the Viceroy Lord Wavell when he expressed his feelings that “tried leaders” would emerge victors (as reported by the former Prime Minister F.K. Noon). On the eve of independence, the “steel frame” on which British rule had once rested was also unbolted and divided off between the two dominions. However,
Pakistan was by far the loser when it came to receiving the inheritance. The administrative assets were no exceptions. Of a total of 1157 officers in the ICS and the IPS (Indian Political Service) there were only 101 Muslims; of these 95 opted for Pakistan. These were subsequently joined by 50 British, 1 Christian and 11 Muslim army officers. Of the 95 Muslim Civil Officers, half had less than a decade of service while less than 20 had 15 years of more. Pakistan, unlike India, was being started from scratch. Most of the divisible assets lay in areas falling in India. Millions of refugees were moving across the new borders. Of these nearly a million were to perish in a massive frenzy of hate-killings by Hindus and Sikhs. There was an almost total breakdown of day to day administration and a very poor state of finances. Thus the administrative problems of nearly 60 million people that were to be tackled by this thin force of a hundred odd officers were far beyond the worst nightmare any of these officers could have had in normal times. To compound the troubles the Muslim League could boast of only a handful competent leaders. As for the national legislature - the Constituent Assembly – it was a body which had been indirectly constituted from provincial legislatures almost solely for the prime task of framing a constitution. Such being the state of affairs, government servants and political workers and leaders of the Muslim League formed a very small nucleus of talent available to the new nation. Thus whatever rift that could have been expected between the government functionaries and the leaders of the independence movement was set aside for the time being. The former, who until not too long ago had been part of the colonial administration that dealt with popular sentiments in a not-too-nationalistic of manners, if not outright antagonism, became natural allies of those who had waged the real battle for independence. Systematic reorganization of the administrative system that had worked so well for so long, and which was showing its efficiency in such times as well, could not have been contemplated even by a more capable and stronger political leadership, howsoever much that they may have sported secret apprehensions against former agents of the Raj. Apart from the need of the hour, it was also the sagacity and vision of Mr. Jinnah and his companions that they were able to realize that the ICS officers were not just spoiled “brown sahibs” but that their lot included many able Muslim officers. Mr. Jinnah, referred to as “the last of the great Victorians, a parliamentarian in the mould of Gladstone and Disraeli … (whose) canons were sound law and sound procedure” (by a pair of otherwise very caustic writers), was indeed a stranger to the values of feudal and tribal cultures. An extremely “un-Indian” and highly legalistic man, the Quaid’s advise to the civil servants of the new country was very clear and not too different from his own principles and world-view: “The administration must be impartial…you should not be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or individual politician. If you want to raise the prestige and greatness of Pakistan, you must not fall victim to any pressure, but do your duty as servants of the people and State, fearlessly honestly and according to the dictates of your conscience.
Governments come and go, but you stay on. Therefore, you should have no hand in supporting this political party or that political party, this political leader or that political leader. This is not your business. Do not allow politicians to interfere in tour official duties or succumb to their political pressure, because I leads to nothing but corruption bribery and nepotism - a horrible disease a disservice to Pakistan ….” [Talk to civil officers at Peshawar, 14th April 1948] Unfortunately the new state moved on from crisis to crisis, chief among them being the further depletion of competent and sincere political leadership by the early demise of Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah and tragic murder of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. For these gentlemen as well as for their colleagues it had not been easy to find talent to run the new nation. The Quaid-e-Azam was well aware of the talents of the British officers who had stayed back as well as the ICI officers. So it was but natural that the Muslim League cabinets came under a strong bureaucratic influence from the very start: to quote K.B. Saeed: “ It was a Mudie or a Cunnigham who sent detailed reports about cabinet and party factions. The kind of advice that Jinnah was receiving can be seen in the letters of these British Governors. The main tenor of these letters was that the politicians were not allowing the government machinery to function with its pre-independence bureaucratic efficiency. Jinnah could have drawn two conclusions from this: one to place the politicians under bureaucratic tutelage; and two; to improve the party machinery to eliminate some of the factions and accommodate others. He was, after all, a dying man and could think of only immediate short-term remedies. In setting for the first alternative, he not only took care of the immediate problems but laid the foundations for future actions and policies of his successor governments that out did him in establishing bureaucratic control over politicians”. The entry thus made by the higher bureaucracy into the corridors of power in the new nation became even more permanent as the political leaders showed a complete inability to come to grips with the problems of the new country. In every sphere the well-nurtured bureaucrats matched the ineptitude and inefficiency of the politicians with an equal and opposite attitude of efficiency and organisation. The “great responsibility” which the Quaid had placed on civil officers’ shoulders - because they provided the continuity while governments came and went. Unfortunately, for the country these bureaucrats were only too eager to conduct themselves according to the letter and not the spirit of Quaid’s words. They were willing to take up the real mantle of power. The founding idealism was giving way to “realism”. On the political side, the Muslim League’s inability to establish itself as a popular party with deep roots in the people had increasingly made it a loss cause; in its place a new group of power elite was coming up. These included in addition to the old power groups of the landlords, the lawyers, middle class urban professionals and the
rising business class, and, of course, the servants of the state whose immense power would always ensure the continuity of this new patched up ruling class. In time military officers were also to make their debut into the power elite. The extent of this power could only be fully appreciated by people who lived under the clout of the District Magistrate or know of the extent of his legal powers. The tenure of a bureaucrat was by far longer than any national leader: 3 decades versus 2 years (on the average). Viewed from another angle, the entry of the bureaucracy into the power elites was a blessing. The country was passing through what could well be called “the decade of difficulties”. Keith Callard, author of Pakistan: The Formative Phase, credits the very functioning of the country “almost entirely to the work of the services, for the quality of the political leadership was neither high nor vigorous.” “Writing in 1956, Callard stated, “The politicians have spent nine years in tearing each other to pieces. When responsible government broke down, the civil services took over …. The periods of direct bureaucratic rule have been in many ways those of most efficient government. There are large numbers of people in Pakistan who would not be dismayed at the thought of a lengthy period of government by soldiers and civil servants.” Callard goes on to quote from an editorial of a leading Karachi newspaper, the Times of Karachi, which writes in its publication of April 28, 1955: “We do not believe that in our own situation the first call on the government is to stabilize the country; democratizing it can only be a secondary objective ….. We are sure that if democracy clashes with the objective of stability, the people will rather prefer some other system.”. Strong as these words may seem, in 1958, they were proven right and the people did prefer the military coup of Ayub Khan as shown by contemporary reports. A statement of Fatima Jinnah, sister and sole companion of the Quaid-i-Azam, in the Morning News of October 29, 1958 read: “A new era has begun under General Ayub Khan and the Armed Forces have undertaken to root out the administrative malaise and anti-social activities to create a sense of confidence, security and stability. I hope and pray that God may give them wisdom and strength to achieve their objective”. The immediate objective of Ayub Khan was to put away the politicians, who had failed the country for almost 10 years. This banishment was to last for quite some time. The General felt that enough time had been given to them. Indeed, when the civil servant turned head of state, Ghulam Mohammed had asked him to impose Martial Law in 1954 the General had not obliged. The new system in which politicians were to have no place, at least not in the first phase, therefore turned almost automatically to the support of the civil bureaucracy and this alliance of military and civil bureaucrats
resulted in what Lawrence Ziring calls “a full-blown administrative state”. Ziring writes: “Schooled in an imperial tradition, the civil-military bureaucrats stressed authoritative decision-making and frowned upon debate and controversy ....The nature of the system attracted to its support people with similar instincts …. The landlord class, which was primarily concerned with the perpetuation of its status, quickly gave its support to the Martial Law regime. Ayub’s decision to accept them underscores his need for a larger base than represented by the union of the bureaucracy and armed forces. The peasant population, Ayub was to note, was barely ready for anything resembling self-government”. Although the Martial Law was to remain in force for nearly three and a half years till June 1962, the Army was removed to the barracks within months of the October 1958 coup and routine administration passed into the hands of the CSP. Very quickly these 400 odd officers came to be perceived by many to be the real force behind the regime. According to Ziring, this dependence on the bureaucracy was prompted by Ayub’s vision of the country in which Islam was not strong enough to hold the country together and where politicians could not rise high enough to “reflect national purpose and resolve”. Moreover, he identified the bureaucracy with education and experience and which as a group was loyal to him and the country. To quote Ziring again: “To Ayub they (the bureaucrats) were familiar with modern equipment and ideas, and had the confidence in their ability as well as commitment to their calling. National consciousness was a characteristic of their profession and their patriotism was unquestioned. Ayub was drawn towards the services that he knew and understood.” Given their undue power and prestigious status, the CSP soon became one of the chief whipping posts of the critics of Ayub’s regime. Not only did the politicians fighting against the regime oppose their power but the common man also raised his voice against the extreme power and privileges of the chosen few. On the political side, the lack of democracy led to serious cracks developing in the heterogeneous body of the nation which, towards the end of Ayub’s period, was manifesting itself in the form of the East-West tussle. This tussle was also reflected in the bureaucracy where of the 741 CSP and other central government officers only 51 were Bengalis. This large number of members of the bureaucracy from a province steeped in feudalism had, in the views of many scholars, a significant influence upon the delay in the establishment of representative government. The feudal background of many civil servants led to a constant egg-or-chicken first type questioning of whether suitable pre-conditions or democracy itself should come first. Acting on the advice of his bureaucratic advisers, Ayub Khan had implemented the 80,000 strong “Basic Democracy” system in which these easily manipulated individuals served not only as local councillors but also as the electoral college for the President. Such “preconditions” for the “real democracy” constituted the classical bureaucratic delaying tactics.
Democracy appeared on the horizon in 1970. But as the events turned out, the return of the country to democracy came with the attendant loss of the Eastern Wing. Chaos returned to the country with a big bang. However, as the situation improved, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto started to come to grip with many of the now depleted Pakistan’s problems. And in his view one of the top ranking problems was the CSP which was still too powerful for him to be comfortable. His thoughts could very well be expressed in Mushtaq Ahmed’s words: “A civil service conscious of its powers and mastery over the procedure of its exercise has been a perennial problem of every government in Pakistan.” Cutting the bureaucracy down to size was among the major issues of Bhutto’s party manifesto. Thus the old institution which still maintained its cold colonial colours and esperit de corps and which had failed to reform itself, now had the 1973 Administrative reforms forced upon it by the great demagogue. To begin with, the CSP lost the titular designations which they so coveted (and wrote after their names like the OBE or MBE); according to the politicians and the people even such small things demonstrated that their colonial attitudes were very much alive. Far more important, however, was the great dent in their erstwhile indeflatable ego and unchallenged supremacy. The CSPs who had been labelled by some as the Brahmins of Bureaucracy, lost the reservation of key posts which had until then ensured their supremacy in the highest offices of the Secretariat. The unthinkable happened: The CSP was dispersed as Tribal Affairs Group, District Management Group, and Secretariat Group and replaced by not only fellow civil officers from other “occupational groups” but also had their noses rubbed in the dust when the People’s party brought in its own version of the American “spoils system”. Under this new “Lateral Entry” system the highly coveted government jobs in the whole spectrum of prestigious offices (from the Foreign Service to the Central Secretariat) were now dispensed without consideration of old concepts like cadres and reservations, or even merit. More often than not, “the lateral entrants” were political favourites who needed to be rewarded one way or the other. The strictly controlled quality of the services was drastically down-graded to make the bureaucracy “more representative”. No longer were there strict quotas or a prestigious examination which ensured some degree of competence. In time the number of “lateral entrants” rose of more than 1500 officers in the gazetted posts. These political appointees had little sympathy for the long tradition of the bureaucrats and immediately set out to carve out a large piece of the bureaucratic cake for themselves. A “Common Training Programme” at the former Civil Service Academy (now renamed as Academy for Administrative Training) replaced the elitist training of the CSP with its pomp and show that had been manifested through colonial hangovers like horse riding and very formal dress codes as well as strictly segregated and training and class-consciousness. The deliberateness of the plan could well be seen from attention to even such minor details as the change in the name of the institution. So well thought out was the plan that even the palatial colonial British Residency building of the Civil Service Academy was taken over by the Chief Minister of Punjab. The “Brahmins” were sent off to be trained with all the other “untouchables” in a building located in the midst of Lahore slum.
In view of the many inherent problems of the country including socio-political heterogeneity, Prime Minister Bhutto who had had his formative political development under the autocratic guidance of Gen. Ayub was convinced of the need of a strong centralized government presided over by an unassailable leader. To be that unassailable leader he again had to turn to the coercive powers of the police and bureaucracy. The bureaucracy of Pakistan had always been a group of intelligent people ready to adapt themselves to changing conditions. As the populist government gave way to a regime that desired more power for the man and his party, the bureaucracy was once again an institution ready to serve in the political field. Extensive as the reforms may have seemed, they did not reach below the surface and the District Magistrate continued to be an important power broker. However, beyond the district police and executive authorities, the institution of bureaucracy generally, and the career civil services in particular, saw an immense loss of their traditional prestige and power during the political period from 1972 to 1977. The district authorities, for their part, remained in the limelight but at the cost of excessive politicization. All civil servants in career positions were constantly reminded of their plight by the stream of “lateral entrants”, “specially posted officials”, and special pre-conditions to certain appointments (as in the districts) or the special postappointment orders that achievement of political and party objectives by a nonadministrative regime was diametrically opposed to the nurturing of a career civil service system that posed a needless and troublesome power lobby for a political government. Indeed, it was for similar reasons that the American founding fathers chose not to establish such a career civil service which would have become an extra element in the delicate ‘checks and balance’ system. As a reminder of this period a former CSP officer narrated to this author how he had declined to become a Deputy Commissioner when offered the place with a big pinch of salt - clear guidelines that he work in “co-operation” with the local party representative in the provincial assembly. Then in 1977, the Pakistani political pendulum swung once again and along with this movement swung the fortunes of the bureaucrats, definitely for the better. The enigmatic nature of our political development became apparent again and the zero-sum game now turned against the politicians who were to remain out in the cold for the best part of a decade. The regime from 1977 to 1988 was firstly and foremostly a military dictatorship that started evolving, towards the mid 80s, into a “controlled democracy” (as do most such dictatorships when faced with rising public dissatisfaction). Like strong non-representative regimes anywhere, that of General Zia needed the support of any and all the power groups who wished to join in and who could be accommodated in the grand non-political national compromise. Following in the footsteps of his military predecessor of the ‘60s, General Zia once again turned Pakistan into a bureaucratic polity, as civilian bureaucrats, wherever they may be, have always closely followed behind armed forces/bureaucrats. This was partly because bureaucrats had the general reputation of displaying a talent for being loyal to whosoever was in power but more particularly because, the armed forces resembled the bureaucratic hierarchies in their close knit corporate nature much more than the political institutions of the Third World. Sympathetically speaking, one could not blame these bureaucrats for allying themselves with a military dictatorship: every living being instinctively seeks a favourable living state in a natural process called adaptation. While realism has always
dictated that the servants of the state ally themselves with the government in power, some alliances come more naturally than others. Thus the new regime found natural allies in bureaucrats who had felt angry and frustrated with the last political government’s efforts to curtail their institutional image. Special support came from the 1300 plus government official whose services were terminated fairly early in the Bhutto period, and on rather arbitrary grounds; these individuals saw the chance of a second lease of professional life. Others who had not been terminated saw the chance to have the Administrative Reforms of 1973 modified in a way that the bureaucratic institution may regain its lost glory. Like rulers everywhere, General Zia was in no quick mood to leave his newly found stature . The respectable exit, which he unwittingly promised in his first speech to the nation, by returning the country to democracy within 90 days of the coup, was not to be. Instead what came was one broken promise after another and one subterfuge after another. Having soon come to appreciate - and even relish - the immeasurable benefits of power the General soon became one of the most cunning politicians the country has seen. One of the chief features of Zia’s cunning strategy of delaying the return to democracy was his questioning of Western democracy’s suitability to Pakistani conditions. This was a repeat of General Ayub’s line of action when he had devised his Basic Democracies Scheme. Moving a step beyond Ayub, Zia proclaimed that Western democracy’s secular ideals were contrary to Islam’s ideologically correct, morally-controlled, democracy based not on parties but principles. He also used the argument that democracy was only a simple head-count not a “mind” or quality count: a hundred fools could never make one wise man. Thus appeared the personal face and power saver of non-party elections under a grossly altered constitution. Zia, the military bureaucrat turned master-politician had undone the political framers of the constitution by bringing in the much-debated and oft-used power of the President to dismiss elected assemblies and prime ministers. Although it is not certain as to what part was played by the senior bureaucrats in the framing of this plan for the non-party elections and the subsequent referendum that gave General Zia another five years in power (through a cleverly worded statement that equated the peoples desire to see his Islamization plan move ahead with Zia’s extension), the role of the district executive authorities in ensuring a favourable outcome for the regime in these tests was no different than on other similar occasions in the past. Very capable in perceiving the underlying motives of rulers, few know better than bureaucrats as to when and how to gain from an eyewash specially when the eyewash was self-serving. Their “pro-centralization anti-politicians” conservative outlook had always led them to prefer dictatorship over democracy. The former with its clear cut and efficient chain of command was easier to manoeuvre and far preferable than a political regime with many masters and the requirement of pleasing many diverse interests. Indeed, from a purely organizational management point of view, political regimes place government functionaries in very unenviable positions. In a typical situation (from the late 80’s) which reflects this strain on government servants is that of a Deputy Commissioner who was a Federal Government officer serving in Balochistan on deputation. The DC was pressurized by the provincial Muslim League Chief Minister to sort out a Member of the Provincial Assembly belonging to the opposition. The trouble was that the MPA’s People’s Party
which was in power at the Centre. The DC began sending feelers of non-co-operation with the said MPA but within days was forced to soften his attitude when the MPA was invited by the PM to accompany him to the USA. The DC being a federal employee on loan to the provincial government could have been transferred him back to the Federal Establishment. This uneasiness of federal employees serving in the provinces (due to the facts that law and order are provincial matters and because both federal and provincial employees are posted in the districts) assumed grave proportions in the late 80”s when the opposition party at the centre - the Muslim league - was governing the largest province of Punjab. Thus when the Chief Secretary of the province (the highest civil servant) was seen to be too sympathetic to the Punjab Government - i.e. the opposition at the Centre - he was recalled by the Federal Government. However, under Rules of Business the provincial government also has to issue a notification which allows the civil servant to hand over charge. If the civil servant left without handing over charge that too would have led to some serious consequences later. Thus even otherwise innocent civil servants were often faced with a Hobson’s choice that was quite similar to the early days of the cold war: to enter a bloc or try to remain non-aligned. It was during this period when party democracy was returning to Pakistan that many civil servants finally took their chances of permanently aligning themselves with one party or the other. This was they could at least expect to enjoy good postings in the boom tenure of one government and then bracing themselves for the next cyclic bust period. For instance a junior police officer an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) was posted to Murree, an important hill resort town which sees a lot of VIP movement. This was the period when Mian Nawaz Sharif was the Chief Minister of Punjab while Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister. When Mian Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister this relatively junior officer was posted as Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in a very important city of Punjab where he spent the three years in the first Sharif government It was widely understood that this position was a reward for the officer’s services beyond the call of duty while in Murree. Upon return of Ms. Bhutto to Power, the officer spent the next three years at the Sihala Police Training Academy which was one of the worst fates short of being suspended, an action that could have been challenged in the courts. Upon return of Mian Nawaz Sharif to power the officer regained his old post from where had had left three years hence. Unfortunately such instances are not the exception. Shahid Rafi another Nawaz Sharif favourite rose from being DC Lahore to Commissioner Lahore and went on to head the Pakistan Television more than 10 years before he could have aspired to be in that position in the normal turn of events. Perhaps one of the most striking and rapid rises of an officer is that of Imtiaz Shaikh: He was a very junior grade 18 officer of the Federal Government when the late Sindh Chief Minister Jam Sadiq picked him to be his Principal Secretary, a senior grade 20 post that would not normally have come to him for at least 10 years. Subsequently this officer had himself absorbed in grade 20 in the Sindh Government through a carefully designed jobannouncement that fit his training and experience first as a civil engineer and then an administrator: the Director General of the Sindh Arid ones Authority. From this “autonomous body” he was posted on deputation as the Secretary. Among the first actions of the people’s Party government was to terminate the services of Mr. Shaikh. So hurried was this action that normal disciplinary procedures under rules were not
followed. Mr. Shaikh promptly went to the Services Tribunal. There the case was kept pending for three years (obviously because of political considerations). As soon as the Bhutto government was ousted in 1996 Mr. Shaikh returned as a provincial Secretary. So great has been the politicization of the civil services in Pakistan that its extent can often stretch to the unimaginable - at least in terms of the standards operating in more civilized countries. In Pakistan politicians who are unfavourably disposed towards public servants can really stoop down to levels which are unbecoming of their stature. But to those familiar with feudal or tribal societies, such personal feuds and vendettas do not seem surprising. Indeed, while the years have seen a steady deterioration of the standards of behaviour both of civil servants as well as their political masters the fact remains that the use of unfavourable postings and transfers is far from a new phenomenon. The use of the transfer-posting arm-twisting methods are as old as formal bureaucracy is in these parts. For instance, a grade 20 officer posted as Director General Hajj at Jeddah was reportedly recalled less than one year into his 3 year tenure simply because his name was Zia-ul-Haq and that he had served in the same Armoured Corps of the late general who was his name-sake. After two years as an “Officer on Special Duty” or OSD (see below) Major Zia was sent packing to Quetta as an instructor at the National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA). Perhaps someone had suggested that as an OSD the disliked officer was still living in his hometown with his family and could be put to more trouble by an unfavourable posting. In any case, training institutions have, unfortunately, come to be regarded as places where only the “less realistic and untactful” or unwanted officers should be posted. Recently, the grade-20 head of the police administration (and reportedly informally in-charge of “other matters”) in Ms. Benazir’s home town of Larkana during her tenure was sent packing to NIPA Karachi. Similarly a 18 officer of the District Management Group (and a batch-mate of Mr. Imtiaz Shaikh) was stopped from going abroad on a family trip when he presented his passports at the immigration desk (after check-in). His crime was having a brother who was a close confidante of the then Prime Minister’s brother and political opponent - the late Murtaza Bhutto. This brother had once expounded the cause of Bhuttoism so strongly that he had hijacked a Pakistani Boeing to demand release of tens of Bhutto supporters put in jail by the military government. Upon subsequent return to Pakistan he had been sentenced to death, only to be pardoned by the military dictator and sworn Bhutto-enemy General Zia. The irony of the situation was that this time the government in power was that of late Zulfiqar Bhutto's daughter Benazir. As for the civil servant brother, Prime Minister Bhutto was said to know his name personally. This officer lost three of his valuable professional years for having a brother the PM did not like. He was denied a posting by being kept on an informal suspension (as a formal notified suspension would have meant that he at least receive his salary - which he only got after three years and Ms. Bhutto’s ouster from power). At one time there were more than 100 OSD of various grades from 17 to 22 (the highest level of civil servants) during the Benazir period. In fact the term OSD has become synonymous with being declared a persona non grata by the government in power. While technically the OSD is a financial mechanism to provide salary to the officers who can only be paid against a post, the real fact is that it is the principal manner of punishing officers who fall out of step with their political masters. In Pakistani government employment the salary is just like the tip of the proverbial
iceberg. The legal benefits of a posting in one’s own town and its attendant PR, car, residence, and telephones, as well as the real-world spin-offs of corruption and nepotism mean an almost life and death difference in economic terms. The “seat” itself represents the difference between psychological well-being and permanent depression. Thus the requirements of pleasing diverse interests (including self-interests) often cause a stand-off between bureaucrats and politicians. The latter operate in a low-literacy feudal environment and are often returned on hereditary seats (from their areas of influence). Even in the more well-informed urban areas voters do not vote on the basis of issues but other considerations like ethnic, caste, or religious affiliations. Many an organizational crisis has been precipitated by the politicians’ attempts to place far too many demands (often made by their constituents) on the system than the available resources cannot meet. The inability of a professionally trained corps of hierarchically organized officials, ideally governed by impersonal rules, to come to grips with the requirements of non-professional, generally low educated, non-organised group of politicians working very subjectively has led to a crisis laden atmosphere in government corridors during political times. Examples of undue political influence in routine administrative matters abound and are favourite subjects of discussion in both official and public fora. While merit has never been the most important factor in the rise of individuals in the Pakistani civil services, which, given their importance in national life, have been excessively influenced by extraneous elements of a polarized and parochial society, these external pressures have always shown a significant rise in political times. In such times even very ordinary, routine matters as promotions, postings, transfers (especially from unfavourable seats to more coveted ones) and even the allocation of government accommodation in large cities comes under the direct control of ministers, if not the Prime Minister. This author is witness to four members of a provincial assembly calling a Deputy Commissioner to stop the transfer of a patwari, the lower most but a pivotal functionary in a district. Stories of even the President of Pakistan paying-off the patwari (to maintain favourable relations as a landlord of the area) abound. On another occasion when transfers of officers were being discussed at an informal sitting, a DC assured two of his Assistant Commissioners of what they already knew: they need not worry about their transfers till 1990 (referring to the year when elections would have been due were it not for the premature dismissal of the government). But then with the change of government, these two officers, very predictably, received their transfer orders within days. At times such orders come within hours of the regime’s fall. Such is the level of political interference in the civil services that few, if any, realistic civil servants will even remotely contemplate a favourable appointment (as that of a DC or a foreign posting) without first cultivating the right political credentials. To be fair to the present day government and politicians, one must note that the history of “mutually beneficial interaction” between bureaucrats and politicians (as the interference of each of these groups into the other’s territory is very mutual as it is extensive) is as old as the nation itself. This historical aspect is clearly brought forth by Keith Callard writing in the mid-50s: “The political influence of government servants is very great. An illiterate voter is ready to believe that he should do whatever he is told by government. And the power of a District Magistrate can
either aid or hinder the candidacy of a politician. Consequently political pressure has been at work to persuade or compel government servants to intervene in party politics. The official has often found it difficult to resist such pressure; the result might well be his transfer to a ‘penal’ station.”. Callard goes on to quote from the recommendations of the Council for Administration of West Pakistan: “Tenures for most of the appointments should be fixed and transfers before the expiry of tenure should be rare. Transfers should not be made as a matter of punishment.”(10) Today, fifty years later the situation is more or less the same. This issue of using postings and tenures as reward and punishment, as well as other legal aspects of the services of government employees has come to the forefront in much stronger terms over the past decade. While initially this was because of centre vs. provincial confrontation, such politicization of the services operates as a situation which is taken for granted. Unfortunately for the civil servants, their proverbial realism does not always come to their rescue and they become pawns in an ongoing great game.. The absence of a proper course of conduct for civil servants (especially those caught in a cross-fire) in political times takes us to the issue that has been cropping up in various fora from time to time: constitutional guarantees for the protection of civil servants. This issue can also be seen in the greater light of the imbalance development of the bureaucratic and political institutions in Pakistan unlike neighbouring India with similar social conditions. In India the post-independence democratization of the polity did not lead to routine official decisions being subjected to political whims of individuals in power, but rather, to a continuity and evolution of institutions on a ‘check and balances’ track.. In Pakistan, the initial political instability meant a heavy dependence of politicians on permanent government employees who formed a self-serving interest group of people who were “neither civil nor servants”. One is reminded of a young probationary officer at the Civil Services Academy who when asked, “What would you like to be called - a government servant, civil servant or public servant?” gave a reply that was greatly appreciated by the then Director General and has survived as an anecdote: “I would not like to be called by any term that has ‘servant’ in it.” But India was fortunate in not having as strong a tribal-feudal nexus as Pakistan as well as a political leadership headed by Nehru which went through the essential land reforms very early after independence. In private circles, the less politically aligned of Pakistani bureaucrats concede that classical bureaucracy in Pakistan no longer exists: there is no more a formal, impersonal body of individuals upholding the rule of law. In many government sectors, the formal organisation has been superseded by the informal ones. In several known cases from a regional party, the political Minister is kept in check by his personal secretary who has a higher rank in the political party hierarchy. The “direct dialling” by breaking of the chain of command in cases where a “tactless” officer may still continue to be formally posted between the political establishment and the “field” has become very commonplace.
One mid-career officer of the Sindh Government recently remarked, “The life has gone from the system. You can no longer show the law-book to the politician who expects expediency as a normal way of life. If the Federal Secretary or the Chief Secretary are unwilling to say “no” to a Federal Ministers or a Chief Minister, then lower down it would be naïve to expect a Deputy Secretary to say no to the members of the assemblies. One aspect of the rapidly changing public-service scenario in Pakistan is the massive rise of financial corruption. Being part of the same whole the unscrupulous amongst both politicians and civil servants have become voluntary participants of an unholy alliance. Although this issue is not directly related to the current topic, it has, nonetheless, a crucial bearing upon the national governance environment. Public service is no loner economically or morally viable for the honest and just officers. Thus many of the academically bright, value-oriented young people, especially from the urban middle class opt for the professions or the upcoming private sector. This “brain-drain” away from the higher bureaucracy has also contributed to the deterioration of the former codes of acceptable behaviour. Extremely wide-spread corruption has led to lowering of the general socially acceptable standards of moral conduct. Government officers across the board now accept compromise as a way of life - whether or not they themselves become part of it. In the ultimate analysis, for a country like Pakistan where political instability has been the norm rather than the exception the distinction between politicians as being the formulators of national policy and bureaucrats as its executors cannot be maintained. Indeed, even in more developed and stable countries these dividing lines are hard to maintain. When political considerations in a system like ours, which is religiously, socially, economically and politically polarised, lead to the bureaucrats being invited for political policy formulation, then these individuals must be prepared to face political pressures in their own day to day decision making process. Whether such co-operation is based on self-interest and voluntary participation or restrained and unwilling surrender to realism, the distinction is increasingly becoming irrelevant and the final fact only remains that both bureaucrats and politicians are essential elements of a modern system of governance. As in any other walk of life, mutual relationships between members of this system are products of historical development peculiar to each case. While a decade ago - when the most recent and longest running phase of Pakistani democracy had just begun - it could have been said that the future of relationship between democracy and bureaucracy in Pakistan is as open to conjecture as any other aspect of this young nation, this is no longer so. Pakistan at 50 has yet to exhibit any significant stabilisation of its new national institutions. Indeed, far from strengthening the institution which it inherited, even the semblance of order which had existed in long-established institutions like the civil bureaucracy has now eroded to a point of no return. Pakistani politicians, whose pretensions about democracy are just that, and who had long had a stormy relationship with the equally authoritative civil servants, seem to have finally won the battle. Though not, perhaps, the result of a deliberate policy from either side, this surrender is nonetheless a reality. From the bureaucrats point of view this could also have been a semi-conscious policy of appeasement, which accompanies every attrition of one group by another, that led to its logical end. It may also be argued that the
grand-compromise of the higher bureaucracy in the face of a rising power is one which manifests a natural cause-and-effect relationship. The changing post-1971 ground realities and the political economy of postings, plots and pelf were hardly conducive to institution building. Unfortunately the lead in this rapid deterioration was taken by the seniors who themselves had been trained and nurtured in the principled traditions of the old guard - the proverbial fish has rotted from its head once again. Alternately, the old guard may itself have been falsely portrayed in contemporary records of the period for they were as much a group of mercenaries as any who were available to whomsoever willing to harness their energies. If they could have been willing to unquestionably serve alien masters the least they could have done was to be available to the home-bred variety. Although Pakistani civil servants had always been too willing to compromise with their political or military bosses - specially with enlightened self-interest in view the deliberate decimation of the services begun by Mr. Bhutto has now given way to an unprecedented chaos in which all-out corruption and ruthless struggle for political ascendancy by the civil servants themselves have left their institution in tatters. Arguably, the civil servants’ adoption of a quasi-subservient role has been a policy to salvage whatever they could of the old-facade, while at the same time not losing out in the self-interest race. The bottom line for Pakistani bureaucrats was recently written (in an article under a pen-name) by a person who is now a Federal Secretary: “A good officer does not create any difficulties in the advancement of the career of his superior who obviously tries his level best to bend or break the rules in furtherance of his prime objective of pleasing his own bosses…. He should be able to show servility as the sole criterion for service. The officer should be politically right and morally wrong.” The one thing which is certain is that the golden age of Pakistani bureaucracy is over. Instituted in its place there is a very effective spoils system, which while not being formally recognised as such, is a well-integrated hierarchical regime of corruption that is covered up by a conspiracy of silence. It is also certain that this new equilibrium suits the majority on both sides. The Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats are very much from the same nation and thus their aspirations as well as short-comings at any given point in time would be similar if not alike. Both groups have needed each other in the past and this requirement of mutual co-operation would continue in the future. Problems exist only for those individuals who for any reason are unable to recognise or come to terms with this new dispensation Such individuals are destined to become irrelevant to the system, if they have not already been marginalized. As for the common citizen the nation’s ever-growing social and economic problems are seen to be the direct result of mismanagement by the equally corrupt politicians and civil bureaucrats alike. Even though it would be sometime before Pakistani rulers and officials learn to restrict their greed and lead Pakistani into an age where rule of the law exists, all is not lost. Even thought the country has not seen a turn-around in essential social-development indices like higher literacy or lower birthrates, the world-wide phenomenon of lesser government (read lesser red-tape and official high-handedness) will lead to a more democratic Pakistan. Globalisation of technology, trade and living styles will cause a lessening of the power-distance ratios. When that time comes, most Pakistanis would been happy in having rid themselves of a
corrupt body of officials that could neither control its own deviant members not persuade its political masters to follow rules that they themselves had made. Writing 10 years ago, this author had said, “no one can only say what the future of relationship between democracy and bureaucracy in Pakistan would be; this is as open to conjecture as any other aspect of this young nation which is yet to exhibit significant stabilization of its national institutions.” For good or bad this is no longer true. Any senior Pakistani bureaucrat figuring prominently in his official realm is now either an ineffective “walk-over” figurehead or a highly politicized extension of the governments in power to be used at their discretion by the forces that be. Pakistani bureaucracy is dead. Long live democracy.
1 Kieth Callard, Pakistan, A Political Study, (Karachi 1968) p.284 2 A.H. Albiruni, Makers of Pakistan and Modern Muslim India, (Lahore 1950) p.209 cited in K.B. Saeed, Politics in Pakistan (New York 1980), p.10. 3 Khalid B. Saeed, Politics in Pakistan, The Nature and Direction of Change, (New York, 1980) p.10 4 Firoze Khan Noon, From Memory (Lahore,1966) cited in K.B. Saeed, op cit., p. 12. 5 Saeed, op. cit., p.26. 6 Callard, op. cit., p.301 7 Ibid. 8 Times of Karachi, April 28, 1955, editorial cited in ibid, p.301 9 Callard, op. cit., p 297. 10 Rowland Egger, The Improvement of Public Administration in Pakistan, cited in ibid, p.297. Saaz A. Khair is a pseudonym of a federal government officer with about 15 years experience in the higher bureaucracy.