TEXT: Being one of the guests at the passing out ceremony of newly recruited Inspectors and Intelligence Officers at Pakistan Customs Academy, Islamabad, I was pleasantly surprised to observe the enthusiasm and pride with which the young officers carried out the parade and chanted slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad” and “Allah-o-Akber” at the end. The ceremony left me with an immediate sense of pride coupled with gratefulness on being part of a prestigious, uniformed service.
I was reminded that uniform is a symbol of state which must be protected against all odds. The recent inclusion of uniform for officers of Pakistan Customs is definitely one of the major sources of professional pride. The need of the hour is to ensure that it is worn properly and the work force is regularly taught the etiquettes to carry it.Pakistan Customs Academy has done a wonderful job in this regard, by publishing a manual that illustrates the requisites of wearing proper uniform.
On a global level, the legacy of Customs as a structured service is widely acknowledged. Interestingly, Custom Houses have been depicted in various art forms and literary pieces throughout history. The celebrated painter Claude Monet painted the famous “Customs House at Varengeville”, on the Normandy coast of France, four times in 1882 and four more times in 1897. Similarly, “The Scarlet Letter”, Nathaniel Hawthorne's most famous novel, published in 1850, opens with a Custom House, as an autobiographical sketch describing Hawthorne's life as an administrator of the Salem Custom House, having discovered the manuscript of “The Scarlet Letter” in that very Custom House. Many other books, movies, poems and stories depict the role of Customs in society, which reinforces the importance and legacy of Customs.
Pride can also be experienced as a positive emotion evoked by unstable events, such as success in a challenging task. Meaningful experiences at work also add to the motivation level of employees. According to the positive computing framework, one type of inner pride comes from feelings of self-achievement while the interpersonal prideis experienced from interaction between oneself and others. The experience of receiving a monetary reward or carrying out a successful anti-smuggling operation or interacting with a widely acclaimed member of the service can all be meaningful sources of pride. Successful case studies and inspiring real stories from Pakistan Customs should be published and made part of the curriculum for newly recruited officers.
Professional life can be more valuable when employees truly realise the impact and importance of their task. Pakistan Customs being the prime agency against smuggling and illicit trade has an extremely important role to play in safeguarding safety, health and environment of citizens with its presence in sea, land and air. There should be policy interventions to introduce measures, that remind each member of the service, the importance of their role and enormous responsibility that they carry. An example of such measure adopted by UK Customs was approval and broadcasting of a British reality TV series: “Nothing to Declare UK” shown from 2008 onwards. The series sensitised the pubic about real life situations, threats and difficulties that Customs officers have to face on a regular basis, thus building a positive image of the organisation.
As member of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Pakistan Customs is also connected with the global community and playing its role to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness. WCO represents 184 Customs administrations across the globe that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade. It is a matter of pride to be part of the voice of the international Customs community. Many officers from Pakistan Customs serve on special seats at WCO and other international organisations. However, there is still a need to enhance awareness and knowledge on possible international vacancies at other international organisations like Interpol, UNODC, UNCTAD, World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation (WIPO) etc.that promote a culture of global connectivity and diversity.
Pakistan Customs is also working on its social media presence through an exclusive official Twitter account which provides the public direct access to the news and information related to Customs and its highest authorities. Gone are the days when people used to sit and wait outside public offices just to convey their concerns. Now highest ranked officers within Pakistan Customs are just a click away on Twitter. Given the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the users of internet in Pakistan during the last decade, this is one of the most important measures. As per one estimate about 36 percent of the total 220 million population of Pakistan is connected to the internet. Around 70 million retain an online presence on social media and most of these users are youngsters. Positive feedback received by random citizens also becomes a source of pride and satisfaction.
In addition to celebrations, events like Customs Day call for self introspection and self evaluation. It is time to ask ourselves if we are doing enough, to earn and add on, our organisation’s pride and legacy. Since pride is a fundamental human emotion involving a complex self-evaluative process, it is a time to ponder. It is a time to pledge and enhance our level of humility, knowledge and professionalism; the three things that make organisations thrive, for generations to come.
Directorate General of NNDA, Pakistan Customs, Islamabad
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023