History of civil service reforms in Pakistan

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M Ali Siddiqi looks at a reform process

Administrative Reforms 1973

Pakistan inherited the colonial system of civil service whose selection was undertaken through a competitive examination that was initiated in 1853 by the administration of East India Company ruling India. Very few ICS appointed officers opted for Pakistan. The civil service of Pakistan was dominated by officers of Audit and Accounts Service and one of them Ch. Mohammad Ali became the first Secretary General of the Government of Pakistan.

It was perhaps the pressure of non-CSP officers of the civil service structure that compelled the government to review the system of administration and it took the step of inviting some foreign experts to study and make recommendations about reforming the administrative structure.

Sir Victor Turner, the then Central Finance Secretary to Government of Pakistan was the first person to head the Committee for Reorganisation of government functionaries in 1947 and gave a report about the size and deficiencies of central ministries. It was followed up by a Pay Commission headed by Justice Munir and its recommendation pertained to remuneration standards. Probably not satisfied by these efforts foreign experts were commissioned and the results of their reviews came in the shape of two reports tendered in by these experts. Surprisingly both experts hailed from the US though the nature of Pakistani civil service was British-oriented.

Dr. Ishrat Hussain

The first report was known as Egger Report prepared and presented in 1953 by Rowland Egger of the US made observations about the civil service of Pakistan and mentioned that it is oriented towards academic notion of intelligence and ability, it is obsessed with interests of those already in service, recruitment standards are out-dated and recruitment techniques are far removed from currently accepted good practices, selection system is self-perpetuating and tends to repeat its own type, as though civil service drew most of its inspiration from looking in the mirror and members of civil service are supposed to be like a box of interchangeable part in assembly line.

After diagnosing the issue, Rowland Egger came up with the solutions that were presented to the government and they advised unification of entire group of employees into Civil Service of Pakistan with internal grouping for administrative purpose e.g. Administration, Foreign Service, Accounts etc. standardising pay scales based on comprehensive job analysis, generalists should not dominate other services and there is a need to have specialisation in the civil service.

Apparently not very satisfied with what Rowland Egger had prescribed, Government of Pakistan, just after two years, consulted Bernard Gladieux also from the US in 1955 to re-review the public administration. He was strongly critical of the superiority of the generalists over the specialists. He said that technical and professional civil servants also possessed administrative skills and should be encouraged to hold higher positions.

Chaudhry Mohammad Ali
Justice Munir

In the same year (1955) the First Five Year Plan of the Government of Pakistan also took note of dominance of the generalists’ cadre of civil service over other cadres. It was recommended in the plan that non-technical Central Superior Services should be converted into branches of this combined civil services all having identical pay scales, prospects of promotion and leave. These should be treated as if they were the branches of a single central service.

The regime change in Pakistan occurred in 1958 with President Ayub Khan taking over the government and wanted changes in civil service structure with a view to making it more suitable to the changed circumstances. He constituted a Pay and Service Commission in 1962 that also criticized the reservation of the senior posts for the CSP especially at the centre.

This report recommended that the entire public service should be built up in seven tiers of groups: Group F 4 Grades Unskilled workers, Group E 4 Grades Semi-skilled workers, Group D 5 Grades Skilled workers and rank and file staff, Group C 5 Grades Lower inspectional and middle supervisory staff, Group B 4 Grades Basic officer class, Group A 4 Grades Managerial class, District level up to Divisional level, PAS (Pakistan 4 Grades Top directly and higher Administrative Service) administrative post.

Another regime change took place in 1969 and Working Group comprising CSP as well as non-CSP officers was appointed by the Government to study the structure of the civil service. The Working Group gave the following recommendations: All branches of civil service should have same status, though they should retain their individuality, for ex-cadre positions, same criteria should be used as for the cadre services, there should be no difference of pay scales of the provincial and central civil servants.

ZA Bhutto took over the government as the first directly elected prime minister and appointed an Administrative Reforms Committee in1972 to suggest suitable reforms for the civil service. This committee was mandated to study all aspects of the civil service and came up with recommendations that underwrote Administrative Reforms of 1973 and gave birth to a service structure that remained unchanged till General Musharraf’s regime brought about changes in the DMG structure but retained other aspects of the civil service as enumerated in 1973 reforms.

Administrative Reforms of 1973 determined that all services and cadres should be merged into a unified graded structure with equality of opportunity for all who enter service at any stage based on the required professional and specialized competence necessary for job, all “classes” among government servants would be abolished and replaced by a unified graded structure: a peon at the bottom and Secretary at the top, the correct grading of each post will be determined by job evaluation, there should be provision for entry into government service of talented individuals from private sector in such fields as banking, insurance etc.

The reforms ensured that about 600 grades or scale of pay of the government were reduced to 22 grades. These were applicable to all government organizations and professions. Grade 1 was the lowest and Grade 23 was highest grade. Grade 23 was the post of Secretary General and there were only 2-3 positions in government. It was also ensured that technical posts were integrated into unified system.

The reforms formed 13 occupational groups classifying each group. Former CSP was abolished and renamed as District Management Group. Police and Foreign Service retained their organisational structure. Three services were grouped together as financial services including Income Tax Group, Customs and Excise Group and Audit and Accounts Service. Information group was granted separate position. Postal Group, Trade & Commerce Group, Office Management Group, Military Land and Cantonment Group, Railways Group and Tribal Areas Group were also formed with Tribal Areas Group later merged with DMG.

The significant factor of the reforms was the introduction of “lateral entry” that was later on abolished for civilians but a fixed quota of 10% was reserved for officers of the armed forces. In addition, common training was given to all the officers in Academy for Administrative Training, at Lahore.

General Musharraf’s regime carried out an extensive exercise in field service such as DMG and Police mainly changing the nomenclature and confusing the service structure. Most of these steps were reverted by successive governments and almost the nomenclature has also been reverted. DMG has come back as Pakistan Administrative Service and still rules the roost at the federation and the provinces.

The last such reform effort came in shape of the report presented by Dr. Ishrat Hussain but its recommendations were not implemented. The cry to reform the civil service has become a regular feature of Pakistani administrative structure. Many attempts were made to reform the civil service with a view to bring improvement in the civil service structure according to the changing social, political and economic needs. The present government has formed a task force under Dr. Ishrat Hussain again to devise reforms process and it may present its report in future.

M Ali Siddiqi is a writer who contributes to leading periodicals

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