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Serving People; Reforming Civil Service

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Muhammad Taqi Ramzan Part-I

The Constitution is the supreme document of a state. A constitution is a social contract which defines the relations between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled’. Without turning to it for guidance, any move made by an executive organ will bear no fruit and be a source of perennial litigation in the courts of law. In exchange for all the fundamental rights granted to the citizens of Pakistan and the institutions established to serve and safeguard them, the only duty given to the citizens is to be loyal to the Constitution and the law under Article 5 of the Constitution.

It has been made an inviolable obligation upon every citizen of Pakistan and any other person present in Pakistan to be obedient to the Constitution and the law of Pakistan. 

The executive is a compulsory part of a government. It comprises a political executive and a permanent executive. The permanent executive is the administrative machinery of the government. It formulates bureaucracy, civil service, professional administration and all other public human resources. However, the civil service among the permanent part of the executive is colonial and central. It lacks the constitutional support of administrative federalism. Civil service orientation still replicates the colonial scheme of reserving posts connected with a province’s affairs for the centre’s service.

  What is the colonial scheme of reserving Provincial posts for central services? The colonial era scheme of ‘reservation of posts’ for federal service in provincial services is still in practice, and even more illegalities seem to be perpetrated to consolidate a single group of civil servants; only God knows why. Again and again, it has been proven that the reform process has just been an eyewash. In contrast, reforms continue to be made behind closed doors to benefit and strengthen only a few blue-eyed civil servants and centralization.

All reforms could best explain the current reforms through an example of a person hiring an architect to design a house. The architect discusses everything, such as the number of rooms the house should have, whether the design should be modern or inspired by historical buildings or homes, whether it should be simple or luxurious, the number of storeys it should have and other ancillary matters. The architect designs the house, but when the time comes to execute the design, the person claiming to be the owner does not have authority over some part of the land in question. The land has four other stakeholders, who are autonomous in building their houses according to their circumstances and needs but have never been consulted during the process. If the person claiming to be the owner tries to continue the construction forcefully, a series of litigation ensues. Instead of bringing anything good, the whole process becomes a sham, leading to further social evils. The same is the case with civil service reforms. 

The federal government must first consult the Constitution, know its limits and areas of concern and consult other stakeholders before initiating any reforms it desires to bring into the civil service.

I want to briefly describe the history of civil service in Pakistan and its past and present legal standing in juxtaposition with the Constitution of Pakistan.

In the constitutional crisis of the early years of Pakistan, the remnants of the country’s colonial past and the advocates of a centralist/unitary government raised a service, through a mere resolution or agreement, called the Central Superior Services (CSP). It continued the imperial practice of reservation of posts in provincial services for the CSP, even though Section 10 of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 had repealed the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935 (interim Constitution of Pakistan till 1956) related to the reservation of posts. The ‘reservation of posts’ was a scheme of sharing posts between the provinces and the centre, provided by Section 263 of the Government of India Act, 1935, which was befitting a setup within a unitary form of government whereby the centre would make all the decisions and formulate all laws. In a federation, however, where the subjects and responsibilities of the federation and the provinces are to be adequately defined and distributed, such a scheme goes against the idea of administrative federalism and provincial autonomy. Even after the promulgation of consecutive Constitutions in 1956, 1962 and 1973, there has been no provision regarding the reservation of posts. Yet, the illegal practice continues, with the District Management Group (DMG) and the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) acting as successors of CSP.

Civil service reforms have only been changing the terminology of the services. The Colonial civil service, namely the Indian Civil Service, has been named PAS, CSP, DMG, AOUG and PAS. How is it possible that despite changing the structures of the Constitution, the civil service has been the same hinging on reserving provincial posts for the central services?

To be continued.

The writer is a civil servant from the province of Balochistan.   

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