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Civil Service Reform: Panacea for all ills of Pakistan (Editorial)

editorial

An efficient and effective system of civil service is considered the backbone of a country’s governance structure and sans this the programmes and policies painstakingly formulated by the government cannot be successfully executed. Hence, there is always a need to meliorate and reform the civil service so that it serves as an active arm of the government rather than a paralyzed organ, which, unfortunately, it is, in case of Pakistan.

The whole structure of Pakistan’s civil service has become outdated and is too weak and fragile to perform its principal function of public service. Despite tall claims of effecting radical changes in civil service by successive governments, ground realities remained starkly different. However, it is quite encouraging to note that the present government is taking serious steps to make the Civil Service of Pakistan a sodality of really brilliant, competent and proficient technocrats. Its first indication was seen when the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) announced the revision of syllabus for CSS exam, the first rung of the ladder that takes one to important positions in country’s civil service. More recently, the Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Prof Ahsan Iqbal, also unveiled an ambitious plan to overhaul the Civil Service.

As per the details, at least 16 years of education will be mandatory for new aspirants seeking careers in civil service. In the selection of cadres for specific service groups, due weight will also be given to specialization as the selection will be made through cluster examinations. This would involve creating special service cadres that include engineers, information technology experts, agriculturists, educationists, health administrators and financial analysts. Moreover, he also wants to end the ban on lateral entry into the civil service, allowing people in private industry to join senior government positions. In addition, the ministry proposes offering higher salaries for civil service positions. These proposals incorporate almost all suggestions put forward by Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) that has been consistently highlighting the urgency of reforms in civil service structure by pinpointing those areas where reforms are needed the most.

Another development that exhibits government’s seriousness in actually introducing civil service reforms is the appointment of Naveed Akram Cheema as FPSC Chairman. Mr Cheema is known to be a decent officer who doesn’t tolerate any indiscipline and remissness. With his taking the charge of FPSC affairs, we can confidently expect that everything regarding CSS exam — ranging from the announcement of exam schedule to the declaration of the final result — will now be done in a systematic manner. However, one area that warrants his special attention is keeping the aspirants free of all confusions and incertitude, especially in the matter of to-be-introduced reforms. For instance, it is still unknown that when and how these reforms will be implemented.
The revised syllabus has minimized the rote-learners’ chances of qualifying the written part of CSS exam which quintessentially means that the prospective civil servants must have a vast knowledge on all subjects. This, in turn, requires that the candidates should have ample time to study and to make preparations for appearing in the actual exam. It is highly important that the FPSC keeps them updated on the issues and matters related to them. The Commission should also publish some sample or model papers as it would help a lot in clearing up the confusions in aspirants’ minds as to how papers will be set according to the revised syllabus.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the federal and provincial governments to use Urdu as official language. In the detailed verdict, the Court observed that “Many officials are forced to spend time on attempting to initiate and take decisions in a language which they are not entirely comfortable with.”

In the light of this direction, the chairman should take steps to introduce Urdu in CSS syllabus as a Compulsory subject. Every year, thousands of candidates opt for regional languages, and all this is done at the expense of our national language, Urdu. Introducing Urdu Essay paper of 100 marks would be a prudent step in this regard.

The next, and perhaps the most important, step would be to revamp the Psychological Assessment of the would-be officers. The new chairman should ensure that only those individuals should be assigned this task who are not only highly professional but also have a profound knowledge of what sort of minds we need in the civil service to make Pakistan a better and developed country in the contemporary world.

Although reform process seems to be moving in the right direction, yet concerns of aspirants must be addressed. In short, the sole purpose of this whole process should be to ensure that only merit prevails at all levels from a candidate’s initial recruitment to his elevation to the top.

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