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Politics & Polocy

Towards clean and efficient administration


I. R. Kazimi
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Politics & Policy
Towards clean and efficient administration

This time the target is bureaucracy

Jun 12 - 18, 2000

As if the prevailing unrest (however unjustified it may be) amongst trading and business community and religious circles was not enough, the Government opened another front in pursuit of its stated objectives. This time the target is the civil bureaucracy. Through a Presidential Ordinance Civil Services Act 1973 has been amended giving the government sweeping powers to retain or retire a civil servant on completion of 25 years of his service on grounds of 'public interest'.

Despite the fact the overwhelming majority of the people of Pakistan support the reform agenda of General Musharraf and assess him as a well meaning and well intentioned person, a feeling is fast developing that there is lack of coordination amongst the various ministries and agencies of his government. They also lack sense of timings and sense of priorities. As a result they have opened up so many fronts simultaneously that even a strongest government is finding difficult to handle. Because of this they back-tracked from some decisions and stated stand. It was taken as a weakness of the government which in turn emboldened the vested interests who have all ganged up against the government. The present tough resistance being offered by proverbial meak and weak traders community is ample testimony to this scenario.

It was in the first week of Nov, 99 that General Pervez Musharraf, while addressing the Pakistan Workers in Abu Dhabi, vowed to root out the feudalism and jagirdari system from Pakistan through meaningful land reforms. This was an addition on his already daunting agenda of economic reforms announced earlier in his address to the nation. The decision was hailed by the national press which commented "it is a matter of great satisfaction that an army general has reached the root cause of all economic and political ills facing the country.

The feudal lobby was alerted and unitedly they started their manipulations by pulling wires here and there. As a result this item was apparently dropped from priorities of the government as no body seems talking about it any more. Then came the crack down on smugglers and Bara Markets. While announcing the decision the Minister for Interior Moinuddin Hyder admitted that goods worth over Rs.100 billions were annually being smuggled into Pakistan from different channels causing a loss of over 30 billion annually to the national exchequer. Unveiling government plans to deal with the menace of smuggling and evasion of customs and excise duty, Interior Minister said in Islamabad that the three-month deadline has been set for the payment of duty on the smuggled goods. Briefing newsmen after a meeting of the high powered committee, he said that all smuggled goods will be seized and sellers will be arrested on the expiry of the deadline. The number of bonded warehouses, which have played a key role in smuggling along with Afghan Transit Trade, will be drastically brought down to single digit from the existing 48.

The traders of the Bara Market flatly refused to pay any tax. They even threatened armed resistance if any agency went to their shops to check the stocks of the smuggled goods. The deadline given by the interior minister expired on April 15. Not a single dealer of smuggled goods — leave alone the areas adjoining Afghan borders — even of Islamabad or Rawalpindi has paid any tax nor any of their shops raided.

While presiding over a conference of World Human Rights Organization in Islamabad in April, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, inter alia, announced some procedural changes ensuring against the misuse of blasphemy law. The religious lobby threatened agitation and the Chief Executive was quick to back track. The religious lobby got emboldened and are now demanding to revert back to Friday as a weekly holiday besides reopening certain other settled issues of sensitive nature. They are openly siding with the agitating traders.

The ongoing week-long strike of the traders and the tough resistance being offered against tax survey campaign and levy of GST at retail level is unprecedented in the history of this country. The secret of this strength lies in the hidden support of alerted lobbies of feudals, smugglers, religious organisations and of course the disgruntled politicians and all other maphias of bank defaulters, looter and plunderers of this country. They are all hoping that perhaps the present government may be knockdown by the traders who have been successful to considerable extent in paralysing the business and trade activity in the country for the last so many days.

The government of General Pervez Musharraf is currently engaged in the huge task of reorganizing the entire state structure and this latest move against government servants seems to be a step towards fulfilment of its promise to provide a clean and efficient administration. But the government has already enough on its plate. Under these circumstances, instead of alienating the bureaucracy the government should have taken measures to boost their morale as their active cooperation is a pre-requisite for the Government's reform agenda to succeed because this is the implementing machinery. Secondly, the new law leaves much scope for victimization and witch-hunting of the employees at the hands of their seniors (appointing authority) who have been delegated powers to decide about retention or retirement of an employee on completion of his 25 years of service. It is quite natural that personal likings and dislikings would also come into play while making such decisions. Moreover, in an atmosphere of uncertainty where future of an employee is left at the mercy of his senior, majority would turn into an army of sycophants hesitant to display creativity, vision and difference of opinion. And most probably the victims will be low grade employees having no or little connections. Where will these poor go.

If the Government was really interested in downsizing the bureaucracy without any discrimination, the proper method would have been to lower the age of superannuation to at least 58 years. But it seems those at the top have, this time again, saved their skin successfully at the cost of their juniors.

Mr. CE! please reconsider the whole issue.