Bureaucracy in Pakistan between Delivery of Civil Services and Politics

By Ahmad, Bashir; Salam, Maawra | Journal of Political Studies, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Bureaucracy in Pakistan between Delivery of Civil Services and Politics


Ahmad, Bashir, Salam, Maawra, Journal of Political Studies


Introduction

The word 'bureaucracy' finds its origin in French 'bureau' which means 'desk' or 'office'. It was coined sometimes in 18th century by French Economics Jacques Claude (Etymology, bureaucracy Encyclopedia). When came in English language, it initially became 'bureaucratic' meaning 'office tyranny'. Thereafter in 19th century, it turned out to be 'bureaucracy' with more elaborated meaning as a system of public administration in which offices are held by unelected officials. It implied management of public affairs by appointed office bearers, often subservient to monarchy. The spheres of bureaucracy were further expanded by German Sociologist Max Weber in 1920. It included any system of administration conducted by trained professionals in accordance with pre-determined rules and procedures. Max Weber (1920) perceived public administration too serious a field to be left to untrained bunch of public representatives. It appears that he rather over-estimated the moral potentials of trained officials; individual human beings with physiological needs and wants who could also be lured into malpractices like those of public representatives or politicians. Education and training to any kind of groups of people works well under a system of checks and balances. It erodes over a period of time as unchecked human desires over take the ethics. Pakistan's bureaucracy went into this kind of experience at the early years of its separation from British India where individual desires, aspirations and urge to concentrate power overtook the values, morals and societal norms.

The bureaucracy as prevalent in Pakistan is extension of the 'Steel-Frame of British Empire', a tribute paid to 'Royal Civil Servants' during colonial era (Sumrin Kalia, 2010). This system of bureaucracy in our case has been true to its basic meaning which obliges these instruments of public administration and management to 'desk'or 'office'. However after going through the history of civil services' functioning during colonial era, one finds the 'Royal Civil Servants' not restricted to the offices. They used to be fully aware of the geographical peculiarities of area under their jurisdictions, socio-cultural makeup of the society, religious sensitivities, political affiliations and possible resistance they would come across while implementing empire's policies. Whereas the civil servants were trained how to coerce and oblige the people for obedience; they were equipped with necessary wherewithal to create infrastructures for public use to win their hearts and minds.

Contrarily, the system of public administration under bureaucracy in Pakistan has been oblivious of ground realities. In office work, they followed their mentors i.e. 'Royal Civil Servants'. However in knowing actual conditions as ground realities they maintained distance from the public affairs / their sensitivities. It was difficult as it demanded time, effort and energy (Nasir Islam, Colonial Legacy, 1989). There were two reasons of this disconnect which made them failure in the longer run of managing the state's affairs. One, since these officials were from the same class of people, they wanted to keep distance from public to maintain their inherited royal status. Secondly, they could not differentiate between functioning requirements of state of Pakistan and those under British Empire. Pakistan was no more part of British Empire; it was to serve the people through administration and governance. There was remarkable difference between the two scenarios i.e. system under colonization and that after independence. The practice in all bureaucratised setups is that office bound bureaucracy does what appears justified on papers and in notes for considerations in hierarchal system of organizational functioning. It would rather be more appropriate to narrate; that the system manipulates facts of ground according to their desk bound studies / feasibilities and file records. It is devoid of (as ever in any bureaucratic system)human considerations to create and maintain public services. …

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