Friday, November 17, 2006

When servants become masters

Civil servants are by definition servants of the people; however, Pakistani civil servants are of a different ilk. In The State of Martial Rule, Ayesha Jalal authoritatively argued that, soon after the creation of Pakistan, "senior echelons of the civil bureaucracy and military succeeded in tilting the institutional balance of power against parties and politician". Nearly sixty years later that partnership is stronger than ever: the generals are de facto in power and senior bureaucrats set their own rules.

From a report in The News:

"Sources told The News that the Punjab bureaucracy in particular has repeatedly foiled the federal government’s attempts to transfer the Centre’s officers outside the province, particularly to Balochistan, that is facing a serious deficiency of District Management Group (DMG) and Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) officers.

"Last week, the Establishment Division (ED) yet again had to eat humble pie by cancelling the transfer orders of six DMG officers, who were posted to Balochistan from the Punjab several months ago. Instead of complying with the government orders, these officers continue to serve in the Punjab."

The News goes on to detail how the federal government has in essence tried to bribe bureaucrats to take up posts in Baluchistan by offering them lucrative financial incentives, but have been rebuffed by the bureaucrats. In desperation, the government has resorted to nominating junior bureaucrats without the relevant (read: Punjabi) political contacts to send to Baluchistan.

That the bureaucrats have defied government orders is merely another instance of their power. But what does it say about the state of the federation if those most attuned to the country's political current refuse to serve its most backward province?

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