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More power or more money?

 ‘WHY do you want to join the Civil Service of Pakistan?’ To put it honestly, I want to make some quick money and grant favours to my relatives by getting some lucrative postings.
To put it bluntly, I want to loot and plunder, and to put it politically correctly, I want to serve the people of Pakistan.
This is the typical question-and-answer session that takes place between aspirants to the civil service and the interview panel of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC), the body in charge of recruitment in the federal civil services of Pakistan.
However, one obvious clarification is that only the politically correct part of the answer is said out loud. The rest is left unsaid because actions speak louder than words, so why waste time by spelling them out and shooting down your chances of getting selected and living your ‘dream’ later?
A few years ago, some lecturers were hired after following due procedure through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). But unlike the standard practice for PPSC selectees they were offered contract employment instead of
permanent employment, and that too at appallingly low salaries with no fringe benefits.
These lecturers got together and secured a meeting with the chief secretary to inform him of the injustice being done. All their hopes were shattered when they were told by the top bureaucrat that ‘I did not force you to join this department, so either put up or shut up’.
A friend, who till then was oozing with the ‘serve the nation’ spirit, was also part of that congregation of lecturers. The man got so disheartened that he resigned within a fortnight after the incident, prepared for the CSS exam, passed with flying colours and now, about corruption in bureaucracy he says that in Rome do as the Romans do.
This paradigm shift has helped him afford a holiday in Rome recently. He often says that if that meeting had not taken place he would have still been serving the nation. It seems like he was still angry despite an enviable holiday.
If serving the country is the prime goal then why would we chase certain postings? It would be stating the obvious to say that bureaucrats do pull strings to get certain postings known to be lucrative. What makes a posting lucrative? Is it the amount of public service you can manage being in a certain position?
The officers posted in Nipa, the National Institute of Public Administration, which has now been merged into the National School of Public Policy, used to joke about their posting at Nipa, referred to as ‘no immediate posting available’, when as a matter of fact being able to groom officers to be true servants of the nation should be considered the greatest form of public service.
Even now, the officers posted at the Civil Services Academy or other similar training institutes meant for training public servants are considered to be sidelined from ‘good’ postings, and with due respect they are considered to be misfits for field postings.
Bureaucrats go out of their way to get postings in departments like land revenue, certain assignments in income tax, where you can catch some real big fish to devour, and customs, where containers can just vanish into thin air causing a loss of billions to the exchequer. The vanishing trick is certainly something that would put the magicians in the pharaoh’s court to shame.
Then there are those who run after postings in departments like FIA, ISI and NAB. Is it because most of us are undiscovered Sherlock Holmes or real-life James Bonds? Or is it because of the nuisance value attached to these departments? The ability to flout the law and get away with it is not a service to the nation. Or is it?
A couple of months ago, the then chief commissioner and inspector general of police, Islamabad, acknowledged before the Senate Standing Committee on Interior that the majority of transfers/postings in the police department were made on ‘consideration’ — consideration being the wishes of the politicians or others whose wishes are worthy of consideration. This honesty deserves applause.
I am not blaming anybody but I am a little confused about why postings in departments such as the Public Works Department, Wapda, Railways, National Highway Authority, the Capital Development Authority, the petroleum ministry, etc., that spend a lot of money, are so sought after by bureaucrats.
Correct me if I am wrong, but the ability to oblige by awarding contracts, jobs, and kickbacks is a lot more in such departments as compared to departments like education or environment or ministries such as youth and women development, which are high on public service but perhaps low on self-service.
Correct me again if I am wrong, but not many of us would like to serve in the education department. I so wish somebody would contradict me on this. I know a man who resigned from a very respectable lectureship in basic pay scale-17 to be a mukhtiarkar (revenue official), which is a BPS-16 position. Why and what for is anybody’s guess.
We want change but with such attitudes ripe amongst every single one of us Imran Khan might not be enough. The only plausible recipe for change seems to be stumbling upon the magic lamp of Aladdin.
Lastly, I would humbly suggest to the interview panel at the FPSC to revise the questions they ask, from ‘why do you want to join the Civil Service of Pakistan?’ to more objective and relevant ones like ‘what would you prefer when you are selected, a position with more power or with more money?’

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