Nabeel Zafar looks at a palpable downslide
The breakdown of the Pakistani institutional fabric also includes the Governmental inefficiency on the rise of institutions that have also become conspicuous by their very obvious inefficiency in the very field of endeavour they are supposed to do its utmost to provide competent service to the people. It is not lost on the discerning eye that Pakistani state suffers from chronic institutional inefficiency that is fast hurtling towards a major breakdown. The intense institutional degeneration is acutely hampering sustainability and growth of the state despite democratic political leadership now presiding over it. The institutional decline has reached the point where doubts are expressed about the coherence of the Pakistani state and its ability to regenerate itself. Unfortunately the realisation of the malady is confined only to verbal references towards it whereas substantial practical measures to address it are sadly missing.
The decline that began almost three decades ago has reached an extent that rise to high level of offices of the state, whether in regular government cadres or allied public bodies, has become a poisoned chalice as almost all personnel holding these offices are shunted out of their positions ignominiously. How steep the decline has become could be gauged from the unfortunate fact that the appointments done by current government in various governmental institutions were looked with skepticism indicative of the pervading hopelessness in the country about the ability of these institutions to bring about positive change.
The consistent duality of political system the country suffered from 1958 has caused a wide breach of confidence in the service cadres recruited by the state to discharge its functions. The credibility of governance structure is severely tested when the military usurps power and institutes administrative practices according to its narrow perceptions of statecraft. The lopsided thought process of all military juntas displayed unfortunate tendency to take liberties with the administrative procedures distorting its very features. The result is that the country is managed through a completely out of tune administrative philosophy that suits neither the state nor the society.
The administrative hotchpotch the state public services have to endure has downgraded the civil service to a state that, in the words of a famous politician, it has remained neither civil nor service. The government functionaries are trend setters in an inward looking society and their lifestyle spiritedly emulated. In Pakistan the overwhelming influence of government machinery has resulted in creating a stultified society where everyone wants to become a government servant including professionals like doctors, engineers, accountants and business managers. And subjected to scant accountability and exposed to tremendous pelf no wonder what this bunch of self serving individuals, devoid of any collective social responsibility, has become; a self-regulating government cadre whose hallmark, irrespective of their station, is nothing but highhandedness.
The institutional decline of official bodies does not necessarily occur due to them being subjected to political power play within their ranks as political maneuvering is a sine quo non of hierarchical institutional behaviour but the usage of opportunist junior cadres for carrying out senior level functions considering that they will not demur to do anything wrecks not only the hierarchical ladder but also closes doors of rational and well meaning dissent. The negativity of proverbial political angle comes into play when junior cadres are used to perform political tasks ignoring regular party political cadres. Such policy cannot be justified on the pretext of pragmatism even if civil service cadres assure their political loyalty.
It is imperative to arrest the downward slide of institutional performance of employees of public sector and services. To begin with it is not very difficult to evaluate moral and financial conduct of public servants through myriad investigative agencies and weed out undesirable elements. A public servants’ conduct may be the only benchmark of his service tenure. To revive credibility of state institutions, restitution of original public service principles is required in order to cleanse its perceptive foundation. Tough monitoring of office dealings of public servants should become the order of the day and may be undertaken across the board. Seniority coupled with performance may be rewarded only and due attention may be paid to the advice rendered by public servants while ensuring that the final decision rests with public representatives.
In addition, the political forces may stop considering civil service as an alternative government or concurrent authority. It should be taken as a subordinate mechanism bearing no fixed loyalty, lacking political sagacity and having no political role to play. It would very well serve the political class to avoid sharing political perceptions of civil service as they lack the width of political vision. Civil servants may not be co-opted to undertake political chores even if they assure their cooperation because politics, in ultimate analysis, is the wise exercise, distribution and maintenance of power which the civil service, owing to its natural disposition, can neither understand nor practice in its true spirit. TW