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Civil Servants

Recruitment & training—II

Huzaima Bukhari

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learnBenjamin Franklin,

Generally, corporate bodies, banking institutions, business houses and private sector enterprises seek the right man for the right job. In most advertisements related to job vacancies, certain qualifications and experiences are specifically mentioned. If for example, there is requirement of an accountant, a person having knowledge of accountancy would be sought. Likewise, a company hiring a marketing expert will not appoint a doctor. Where fresh graduates are recruited, they are made to undergo on-job training before assigning them independent posts. Having spoken about the quality of recruitment procedure in the earlier part, it is vital to understand the consequences. Since those being examined are in a particular mode, they may be able to trick the examiners about their capabilities the truth of which can only emerge with on-spot situational reviews over a longer duration of time.

Raising the upper age limit means that opportunity to join civil services is available to professionals and those already on a career path. (The attraction of civil services is such that persons serving in senior grades outside CSS cadre are happy at being reverted to grade 17 under the CSS umbrella). Being mature and experienced, such persons are not willing to be treated like youngsters, to be disciplined and lectured in subjects they may already have excelled in, which creates a general environment of unrest in the process of subsequent trainings. On the contrary, it is widely believed that the younger lot that has yet to embark upon a career is more pliable and receptive making things easier for trainers as can be observed in the military academies. It is easier to write on a clean slate than having to clear up and rewrite on a messy one.

The concept of quota system was introduced in 1948 by Liaquat Ali Khan to induct Bengalis into services. This was later refined to allow 20% seats on merit in the CSS exams in 1949. Undoubtedly, a very noble move because it allows residents of the less developed areas to come at par with those living in the more privileged localities and who have access to better educational institutions and more exposure to the civilized world. However, reducing selection on merit from 10% to 7.5% effective from 12th February, 2007 vide Estt. Div. OM No. 4/10/2006-R-2, dated 12th February, 2007 as a politically motivated measure was definitely uncalled for.

The world today is that of specialization in every field. Although every single doctor earns MBBS degree, yet a general practitioner would refrain from prescribing medicines to a heart patient.  Similarly an FRCPS qualified gynecologist would never dare to perform an open heart surgery. The many government departments both at federal and provincial levels demand understanding of some basic things peculiar to their working. A simple example would be that of foreign service where international relations, world history, political science, command over a foreign language, especially English, social etiquettes etc. should be the pre-requisites. How can a 32 years old lecturer of say, chemistry, teaching in a college in rural Punjab in a mixed Seraiki-Punjabi accent and who has a limited world view other than what he has memorized to clear the general knowledge CSS paper, be expected to handle sensitive international desks in the foreign office?

One could argue that after CTP, candidates are supposed to undergo specialized training but would, let’s say one year training be sufficient to create the perfect diplomat Pakistan could be proud of? Same is true for departments requiring, for example economics as core subject, or experts in public transport and communication, or degree holders in business and accounting, public health specialists the health sector. As Otto von Bismarck has aptly stated: “With bad laws and good civil servants it’s still possible to govern. But with bad civil servants even the best laws can’t help.”

In order to straighten up things and bring about sensibility in hiring, and improving the quality of civil servants, recruitment through Federal/Provincial Public Service Commission should be split up on the basis of each occupational group. Rather than wasting taxpayers’ precious money on employing/training a large group of ecstatic and disgruntled people for serving in ‘lucrative’ or ‘undesirable’ departments, or attempting to integrate them as a unified force, exams should be held for applicants for a specific group. Thus, a person willing to serve in the Postal group, should sit an exam meant for it. Likewise, those who have the basic qualification for working in various revenue departments should appear in an exam specially designed for such services. Those specializing in agriculture, for example, could be hired through these commissions to work in this sector, rather than placing an electrical engineer there having no knowledge about this subject.

One learns not so much from textbooks as one does by involvement. The training process should be over a span of at least eighteen months with the candidates being made to learn the complete ins and outs of their parent department and go through from the most fundamental aspects to what is eventually expected out of them. The rigours of training should be meant to make them competent at their work, to instill confidence to allow them to have cordial relations with their colleagues, good grooming in etiquette and behaviour and thorough understanding of different problems that members of the public are likely to face and which they are supposed to resolve. The catchphrase should be “Facilitation without fear or favour.”

When candidates earnestly aspire for a particular job, they will definitely put their heart and soul to achieve success in that field. Instead of discriminating services on the basis of which is elitist and which is common placed, promotions should be harmonious and purely on merit so that for example, medical professionals .having put in many years of hard work are not distressed and compelled to become district administrators, auditors, policemen or revenue collectors. There does not appear any plausible reason for why certain services have better promotion standards while in others, officials retire in junior cadres. There is an urgent need to bring about equity and rationality in the entire service structure otherwise as Winston Churchill said, “After a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil.” It is high time that this dismal image of civil servants is replaced with a more somber and humanistic one. (Concluded)


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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