When thinking of government service in Pakistan, a few things tend to pop into a person’s head. A sharply dressed officer with a prominent power walk, a shiny official car, a personal secretary carrying files and folders. “What’s not to like?, one tends to think. But, is the public sector and its practices in Pakistan really all that they’re made out to be?
The choice to follow a career in public service doesn’t have to come with age. Some people dream of becoming an astronaut, some of racing cars and some simply want to serve their country. There’s no doubt that a country cannot function without a framework of government employees who’s duty is to make sure that the rights and services deserved by a citizen of the nation are dispensed to them with the utmost ease and lack of hindrances. They are the framework through which the constitution acts, through which the rights of a citizen are upheld, the means through which a government interacts with its citizens, the connecting bridge between the decision making and the on ground functioning of a country.
Let’s be honest, that’s a heavy burden for any pair of shoulders. To be given the duty of running a country at a defined level is a great responsibility and it’s only logical that these particular jobs should only be given to the most capable of people. This, in turn, causes the questions to arise; are the best possible candidates being selected for the job currently? If not, then why not? What can be done and needs to be changes regarding the application and selection procedure?
When it comes to public service in Pakistan, the Government service comprises two distinct categories of officers. One, recruited at the federal level, either through the contemporary examination scheme or direct induction, provided minimum job requirements have been met. Two, officers recruited at the provincial level who apply and are selected through the same two means. Since provinces report to the federation, it is usually the case that federal officers are allocated more powers and seniority than their provincial counterparts.
Openings in the service are advertised in small black and white columns in newspapers. There’s nothing about them that stand out or pull your attention. Meager descriptions of the openings don’t give a person much of a hint about where applicants will be ending up, what the job itself entails and what packages an applicant may be eligible for. The typical bureaucratic black and nature of desk jobs comes across as nothing that would inspire or excite an aspiring civil servant. There are no media campaigns depicting the travels and adventures you can have like the marines. There are no recruiting drives in universities targeting potential applicants, showing them what the public sector has to offer. Civil servants should be the best and the brightest, it only makes sense when giving them such responsibilities. If there’s no need to draw them in or show them a world full of opportunity, does that mean the service already gets the crème de la crème?
The majority of university graduates that specialize in science and engineering based fields in Pakistan rarely end up going into
public service. Does the Government not require technocrats for policy making regarding technical fields? Public administration courses for undergraduates at the university level barely exist. Should the grooming for public service not start off early if a person would prefer it? When the functioning of a country is pivotal when it comes to its establishment, why is there so little public knowledge and outreach on behalf of the service itself? The recruitment process is inherently based on minimum disclosure and outreach. Maybe the public sector has the top tier of employees. Maybe they’re alright with not having them.
On the other hand, when seen through the perspective of retaining employees, the civil service rarely sees voluntary cast-aways. The perks and privileges allocated to a public sector officer and more than enough to keep them happy. Official transport, a comfy desk, powers associated with the relevant job and field given, subsidized utilities are just a few to name. The most important factor however is security. Once you’re in, you’re in. You’ve got a pension, you get to take travel as part of official tours and most of all you can’t be removed from the service unless a major offence such as corruption has been proved. As stated before, these facts aren’t very well known amongst the general public. The only way through which you get to understand and know about the public service is through firsthand knowledge through an actual person. Word of mouth, as to speak. Families of doctors keep making doctors and families of engineers keep making engineers unless an inspiring job seeker comes into contact with someone with knowledge of public service that ends up appealing to them. The only reason for that is the lack of exposure the general public has to the line of work. Not to say that that’s the story of every household, but an actual passion that leads a person to public service isn’t a common finding.
Without a doubt, the country’s machinery needs well educated, oriented and motivated to work smoothly. It needs mindsets that are diverse, originating from different backgrounds and levels of exposure with expertise in a broad spectrum of fields. Currently, the needs of the public sector may be met with the existing workforce, but when it comes turn for the younger, more broadminded and skillful generation to takes its place, the question arises that will the selection process change accordingly to accommodate such future civil servants? The world is moving forward, and if that’s not the case with the recruiting procedure currently employed, our citizens will not have the best and brightest formulating and executing policies for them.