ISLAMABAD: The news about the promotion of 33 officers to Grade 22 recently has largely gone unnoticed. The exclusive Club-22 has reached the strength of nearly 60 officers if one includes the retired oldies hired on contract also. And it may cross the 100 mark if nobody checks them.
In good old times, let’s say before bureaucracy was corrupted and politicized by General Ziaul Haq, less than half of their present strength performed twice as much. When the fossilized Salman Farooqui got his Grade 22, along with two others, it was a lead headline in a national daily: “Three too many.” Why did it go unnoticed this time? May be because politicians are incompetent to control the bureaucrats and are mostly partners in crime in this mutual back-scratching; journalists are indifferent and do not understand its dynamics and gravity; the public does not care two hoots about such complicated issues as it confronts the inflation, gas and electricity loadshedding. And the Miebaaps, as the Gora Sahibs in the Raj were seen as the 'mother-father,' in their greed for self-aggrandizement and the sickening quest for power and perks, have lost the very purpose for which they exist — to serve the public.
But the biggest blame for this goes to the big-wig Lordships. You have to give credit to the genius of our mandarins who used a Supreme Court decision to reverse the very purpose for which it was issued. Remember when 54 officers were given grade 22 in one go. Nargis Sethi, then Principle Secretary to the PM, was accused of orchestrating that just because she wanted herself to be promoted. No way could she have made it to the Club-22 as she was so down the ladder and with little credentials too.
So being the most junior person ever on the most senior and prized job, thanks to Murshad Saeen, she got a whole battalion of mandarins join the Club-22. Incidentally, the biggest chunk of the promoted officers was from her own batch of Seventh Common. This bypassed a whole lot of more senior and competent officers. Naturally, they challenged it in the courts. The Supreme Court in its wisdom ruled that a criterion should be made for a minimum basis for the promotions. Bingo! The beaucrats under the supervision of Ms Sethi made two years of service in grade 21 as the basis of promotion. This of course suited the DMG group now called as Pakistan Administrative Service. This opened the flood gates to expand the Club-22. And all in the name of implementing the SC decision.
Of course, the decision was followed in letter but not in spirit, which was to have a sound mechanism for fair promotions.
From parliamentarians to judges to generals have some collective formula in the shape of constitution, laws and the rules of business or procedures to manage their strength. In the case of the superior bureaucracy, they have become the judge, the jury and the hangman. They write the summaries for their own expansion in slots, divisions and vacancies and always manipulate the approval from the often naive and willing politicians. There is always a Gilani or a Raja — Shaukat Aziz, Jamali, Chaudhary Shujaat before them — who is always keen to oblige the real powerbrokers of this country. Shahbaz Sharif thinks that the bureaucrats are a god’s gift to the earth. He did not let the local bodies held as this would have curtailed their power. The idea is political control and not the welfare of the people. And this is where the DCOs deliver more than the elected lot.
I have seen politicians actually bragging that they obliged so and so with out-of-turn promotions. This is done in the hope that the obliged lot will pay them back at some stage.
But all of this has created a shameful class of bureaucrats. Qudrutullah Shahab and Altaf Gohar, in their own times, became henchmen of a dictator. Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Ijlal Haider Zaidi, Roedad Khan and even Salman Farooqui were also tainted in their own ways. But one thing you could not say about them: they were not incompetent. Now we have a class of super bureaucrats who are tainted as well as incompetent. We have in journalism a long list of role models — from Mazhar Ali Khan, Ahmad Ali Khan, H K Burki, Nisar Usmani, Aziz Siddiqui to the living legend I A Rehman. The judiciary has Cornelius, Kayani, Dorab Patel and perhaps Bhagwandas. Politicians have Jinnah, Bhutto and, if I may say, the under-rated Junejo. Among the generals, I respect Kakar for refusing extension. And who are the role models of babus today: Nargis Sethi and Khushnood Lashari, who held the highest posting of the PSPM. May be Kamran Lashari. He is idealized as the success model. Despite having left a trail of corruption cases before the Supreme Court, he gets accepted as an advisor to Shahbaz Sharif.
May I dare say that I have not come across a single role model in bureaucracy who fought against all odds to stand by his or her principles. It is perhaps in the nature of their job to comply and say ‘yes’ to the boss or go home. Yes, a few good men, in relative terms, fought a few small battles. A few faceless bureaucrats, in my humble rating who simply did their job and left home quietly should include Shahzad Hassan Pervaiz, Chaudhary Siddique, Farooq Haroon, Javed Noor, Tariq Khosa and Khawaja Zaheer. There must be many more ‘relative’ role models. This says a lot about the very structure that we rely on.