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Rise and Fall of the Civil Service of Pakistan

Written by S.G. Jilanee  •  May 2013 PDF Print E-mail

Rise-and-Fall-of-the-Civil-Service-of-PakistanThere was a time when the Civil Service was the most coveted and most envied in India and Pakistan. Its glamor made it the ultimate aspiration of all educated young men. When the East India Company had dug its feet in India and turned from just traders to rulers, they needed people to look after the law and order, settle land issues and collect revenue. Thus was born the covenanted Civil Service (CSS).

After India came under the direct control of the Crown, the British government created a class of people who acted as “interpreters” between the British rulers and the millions they governed. This was the Indian Civil Service, (ICS), controlled directly by the Secretary of State for India at Whitehall. Their duty was to assist in the perpetuation of the Raj. The common perception that the ICS was completely apolitical and only the CSP “played politics” is, therefore, not correct,

The procedure for recruitment and terms of service were clearly laid down. The officers were given their mandate and full authority to fulfill it. With job security guaranteed, they went about their task with missionary zeal and delivered.

Gradually, with the introduction of reforms towards self-government and induction of Indians in the ICS, political inclination among Indian ICS officers became more pronounced. Nonetheless, while some Hindu ICS officers openly associated with Congress leaders, Muslim officers kept aloof from the Muslim League. District officers were the masters of all they surveyed. But they were also the mai-baap of the people under their charge and as such they dutifully looked after their wellbeing. They also demonstrated the highest probity, so as to serve as models for the members of the Subordinate Civil Service under them. For example, S. B. Hatch-Barnwell, ICS, Member, Board of Revenue in East Pakistan, came to the secretariat riding a bicycle till the very last day of his service.

With the creation of Pakistan, not only the nomenclature was changed first from ICS to Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) following India’s example, and finally to Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP), but the Service also underwent a sea change. Some rules had to be discarded due to genuine compulsions. For example, in the old days, ICS officers were allocated permanently to provinces other than their home province, which then became their home. But no East Pakistani officer could accept a permanent posting to any province in West Pakistan.

At a very early stage the CSP developed contempt for politicians for a variety of reasons. It also discovered that alliance with the army was beneficial to their interests. By 1967, therefore, when the author joined the service, “Ayub’s fortunes were on the wane; not so the CSP.”

The CSP had reached the peak of its power. But power on an unprecedented scale in the newly independent country also led to corruption as its logical concomitant. The hallowed traditions of the ICS that had lent it its aura were forgotten. The evil was not limited to graft. It included even moral depravity and metastasized all over the system. One ICS officer seduced the wife of East Pakistan governor’s military secretary, Col. Keightly and lived with her openly in the Dhaka Club. A CSP seduced the wife of a local doctor when he was district magistrate in Jessore (East Pakistan).

Nemesis was therefore foretold. Through repeated purges and the induction of swarms of army officers, the CSP was battered out of shape. “In 1973 Z.A. Bhutto destroyed and buried the Civil Service of Pakistan. In 2001 Lt. Gen. Tanvir Hussain Naqvi destroyed whatever little ability it had to deliver.” (p. 138) Rewarding loyalists and punishing conscientious officers by elected rulers had become routine quite early. Today, a junior grade 21 officer is appointed chief secretary, superseding “twenty-nine grade 22 and ninety-three grade 21 DMG colleagues.” (p. 336)

All this and much more has been chronicled by Aminullah Chaudry, a retired CSP of the 1967 batch in his seminal book, Political Administrators. His tragic experience as an unwitting casualty in the cross-fire between the prime minister and the army chief in 1999 is an eye-opener. On the one side was Nawaz Sharif ordering him to prevent the PIA flight from Colombo with Pervez Musharraf on board, from landing anywhere in Pakistan; on the other was the military, demanding that the plane must land at Karachi airport. Previously, Nawaz Sharif had removed Chaudry from his coveted office as Commissioner Lahore division simply because he had attended the funeral of Aitezaz Ahsan’s father. Therefore, Chaudry took special care to obey the prime minister’s order without a question and blocked the Karachi airport runway. All he did was report the plane’s fuel position to the PM’s office to which he received no response.

Therefore, after the coup, he was kept in jail. He remained under suspension from October 1999 till 2003. No departmental proceedings were conducted and even after he was re-instated he was not given any posting until he retired in 2004.That it happened with a grade-22 officer, the highest rank in the service, underscores the status to which DMG has been reduced.

The book is not only the history of the Civil Service from its origin to its present unenviable state chronicled with painstaking detail, it is also the author’s memoirs, starting with the halcyon days of his training at the Civil Service Academy. He narrates his experience in various field and staff appointments, as sub-divisional officer, deputy secretary in the provincial government, deputy commissioner, divisional commissioner, principal secretary to the prime minister to his final assignment as director general Civil Aviation Authority and secretary, Aviation Division, which proved to be his swan song.

As the first civilian officer ever appointed to this post, Chaudry had landed into the cross hair of the PAF whose exclusive domain it had previously been. And when he tried to enforce rules, he came into perpetual conflict with the PIA, PAF and even the GHQ.

The book is a gold mine of inside information on how the administration functions at different levels. The details of pulls, pressures, intrigues and blatant disregard of rules, are all described with candor. General readers would find it useful as a history of civil service in Pakistan, but for the new entrants into the DMG, it should be a must read to prepare them for the difficult road ahead. 

Title: Political Administrators - The Story of the Civil Service of Pakistan

Author: Aminullah Chaudry

Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 2011)

Pages: 404, Hardback

Price: PKR 895

ISBN: 9780199061716


S. G. Jilanee is a senior political analyst and the former editor of Southasia Magazine.
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