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Old Wednesday, November 09, 2016
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Smile The way out: Solution to civil service conundrum lies within

By Riazul Haq

Published: November 7, 2016

An important document of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) offers remedy to a plethora of serious issues plaguing it from an alarming drop in successful candidates to increase in vacant posts coupled with flawed policies of bureaucracy amid political intervention.

Establishment Division Secretary Tahir Shahbaz had told a Senate panel that the number of bright and able candidates was decreasing while competent officers have been joining multinational companies owing to attractive job offers.

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He also shared that Balochistan has been facing a severe shortage of Pakistan Administrative Service group officers, as there are 61 seats vacant in top five grades (between BPS-18 and BPS-22) out of 103 vacancies among all provinces. The secretary shared the figures of vacant posts from other provinces and stressed the need for overhauling training, promotion and rotation policies of the civil services to make it attractive for the younger generation.

“An honest officer cannot work in current pay scale and facilities,” he lamented, besides stating that even the number of sanctioned posts every year is on the rise.

The FPSC has bluntly accepted that it has been plagued by several problems that have been increasing with each passing day in a report in April this year. The report pinpoints flaws in the civil service system and suggests solutions to it.

The FPSC has admitted that lack of professionalism, political interference; obsolete rules and systematic inconsistencies are one of the few factors besetting its performance.


On the one hand the bureaucracy laments shortage of officers while on the other hand there are around over 30 government officers in grades 20 to 22 who are currently officers-on-special-duty (OSD), meaning that they have not been posted anywhere.

Some of the officers have been OSD since 2013, meaning the government has been unable to find them any suitable posting, but still pays them full salaries, costing the public exchequer millions of rupees every month.

A source in the Establishment Division said some of the OSDs were considering voluntary retirement out of sheer frustration.

Political interference

Political interference and appointment of blue-eyed officers by politicians and the government have always been an issue of nuisance for officers as many are usually side-lined or ignored in promotion boards, forcing them to move courts.

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Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat Chairman Senator Talha Mehmood has often been putting the promotion of selected officers in his committee, but officers from the Establishment Division have been denying any such thing.

Another member of the committee Senator Kamil Ali Agha also thinks that it is useless to point out flaws in any system if they are not fixed.

“The apex courts should observe and take stern action as to why provincial quota is violated and selection is made on the basis of likes and dislikes,” he stated.

According to the Establishment Division, about 219 cases of civil servants were pending before various courts and tribunals nationwide. The statistics reveal that 94 cases, the highest number, are pending before the Federal Service Tribunal, followed by 85 at the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Moreover, 21 cases are pending before the Lahore High Court, nine before the Sindh High Court, three before the Balochistan High Court, and seven before the Supreme Court.


Among many suggestions, the FPSC has urged the government to set up a national university of public policy and administration.

“There is a need for an apex institution to impart higher education in the fields of public policy, public administration and allied disciplines to prepare and groom current and future generations of officers in statecraft, good governance, strategic thinking.”

The report also suggests implementation of recommendations put forward by a committee headed by Abdul Wajid Rana, Member FPSC, to undertake an exercise to outline the objective criteria for promotion to make civil servants honest officers and free from political pressure.

The report also suggested redesigning evaluation form for officers of grade 19-20. Besides, suggesting objective criteria for promotion to BS-20 and BS-21 — including the minimum period spent on duty in each basic pay scale.

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According to a secretary, who wished not to be quoted, until and unless the civil service is freed from the claws of politicians and their directions, every policy would fall flat.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2016.
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