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The Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mahmood, in his capacity as head of the cabinet committee on institutional reforms, announced this week major reforms in the Civil Service of Pakistan. Reforms focus on the Civil Servants Promotion (BS-18 to BS-21) Rules , 2019; the Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules, 2020; the Efficiency and Discipline Rules,2020; the Revised MP Scale Policy, 2020; the Rotation Policy, 2020; and the Rationalisation of cadre strength — induction in PAS.

These reforms constitute a departure from any of the previous civil service reforms and can be termed “revolutionary” in a broader sense. Promotions will be judged on weightage of 40 percent on Annual performance reports, 30 percent on training reports of officer and 30 percent on interview of the evaluation board. The civil servants can no longer take their jobs for granted; they can be prematurely retired if their three annual reports exhibit average or below-average performance, officers who reach grade BS-21 but are passed over for promotion three times by the promotion board and not found worthy of promotion, officers who claim plea bargain and voluntarily return money in corruption references against them and deficiency and weakness of character.

As against the prevailing trend of substantial delays in inquiries against officers due to a convoluted system, all proceedings will be wrapped up in 105 days from the start of an inquiry to the final decision. Whereas, disciplinary actions will be initiated against individuals who enter into plea bargain or voluntarily return of ill-gotten money. The officers who maneuver or manipulate to remain in the provinces of their origins for long years will not be promoted to grade 21.

The reforms rolled out by the incumbent government are commendable, but extremely challenging to implement on the ground. They are more in line with the ones applicable in the corporate sector where the relationship between the employer and employee is governed entirely on the well-defined and expeditious principle of ‘give and take’ according to which, only those who deliver can survive and excel.

The biggest challenge to reforms stems from the political leadership heading the government that tends to judge the civil servants entirely on the basis of their political loyalty and their subservience to the dictates of political leadership. The political leadership hardly takes into consideration merit, annual confidential report (ACR), integrity of the officer and his loyalty to state. This factor alone is the prime reason for the rot in the civil service, which was once considered as the strongest pillar of state - being the executive cadre entrusted with the constitutional responsibility of managing the affairs of the state in the supreme interest of the state alone.

(The writer is former President Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

Farhat Ali

The writer is a former President, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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