Overbearing bureaucracy than being civil servants
AFTER a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil, said Winston Churchill.
With time, in Pakistan, they have gone too far on this plane to satisfy their inflated egos and insatiable desires of power, money, royal mastery and blotted style of life while abdicating their onerous responsibilities to serve the country and people.
A few days back, people saw its ample glimpses at a Ramadan Bazar in Sialkot when Special Assistant to CM Punjab, Doctor Firdus Awan, got into argument with AC Sialkot, Sonia Sadaf over some substandard edibles being sold and her absence from there.
At the time of incident, AC was sitting in her official air conditioned vehicle with no regard to her responsibility to check quality of items being sold there.
Her replay was typical of a pampered official when summoned to explain her failure and absence.
She left regally as argument got escalated while saying that this could have been done more civilly.
Her conduct was more of a rebuff than guilt for his indifference and poor conduct/performance.
Instead of scrutinizing her unbecoming conduct, high ups in bureaucracy, stood with her instantly.
No other than Chief Secretary Punjab himself, took lead to commend her work amid scorching heat and corona pandemic while sharply condemning unfair treatment meted out to her publically.
He also made a point to note that he has conveyed his reservations about the tragic incident to the CM. Out of all this, protest of graduates of Civil Service Academy was even more baffling whose call was “a PAS officer has been publically humiliated and this is a criminal act” however, civil bureaucracy had to take pause and stepped back when video of incident got viral on social media and found opinion of people hugely split.
Undeniably, an official should not be publically censured however, vast majority of people on social media took it an opportunity to show mirror to civil bureaucracy for their abject behaviour and showing in discharge of their assigned responsibilities.
This did not remain merely confined to public opprobrium and disapproval but initial official report also found AC Sadaf at fault nevertheless, for civil bureaucracy, instead of taking it with a pinch of salt, it is yet another opportunity to reflect soberly and take corrective measures to overhaul not only its functioning but also its misplaced mindsets, plaguing its face.
Undoubtedly, at present, our civil bureaucracy has touched almost extreme limits of its decay, degeneration and delinquency.
Its origin could be traced back to its colonial past which carried a royal/viceroy type mentality or over lordship.
Coupled with this, a myth of being a superior intellect as a basis for their induction in civil service makes them to pick an added sense of hubris.
In long ago, probably it was true that inductees were cream of the nation. Now it is not so because now cream of the nation does not join the civil service.
At best, they are top layer of the rest. Whatever potential one has at the time of induction, gets nearly stagnated until it is continuously gelled through progressive learning curve.
Its fundamentals are commitment, industry and professional integrity. Except a few exceptions, our civil service has said adieu to such attributes since long.
Now these have been replaced with indifference, apathy, variety of greed and personal comforts/preferences.
The methods employed are flattery, acquiescence, complicity, opportunism and outsourcing of their responsibilities on one pretext or the other.
As a result, objectivity in work of civil bureaucracy is the first causality followed by learning and grooming of its cadre. Precisely this is the reason that our civil bureaucracy has reached at almost last end of its decay, decomposition and inefficiency and smells too rotten.
The respect and prestige do not remain inbuilt with any institution for ever regardless of its past reputation and standing until its rank and file continue to seek them through fulfilment and achievement.
Again precisely this was the reason that despite a harsh treatment meted out to a Lady AC by a political lady of dubious credentials, public opinion became split widely.
Besides, covert alliance of bureaucracy with corrupt ruling elite/mafias is also further impairing its credibility and name.
The saga of IG Sindh is too recent to be forgotten. Instead of taking prompt and stern action against guilty of desecration of Quaid’s Mausoleum, Sindh Police chose to side with their political masters in order to shield the culprits.
Amid such environments, our bureaucracy cannot continue to boss around unchecked and expects extravagant respect, prestige and difference.
Instead, they need to jettison overbearing mindset/attitude and other malfeasances and revert to its basic role as of public spirited servants and efficiency to forestall recurrence of such instances of public ridicule and rebuke with more frequency and intensity.
This is an imperative because civil bureaucracy is the mainstay of one organ of the state; executive.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.