ISLAMABAD: A large section of civil servants is angry at the PML-N government for allegedly favouring the powerful Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) at the cost of the other 10 occupational groups.
Formerly known as the District Management Group (DMG), PAS got a major share of the promotions of bureaucrats under a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) issued by the government on Feb 10, 2014.
The SRO has allocated 65 per cent of the Secretariat Group promotions in BPS-21 and 22 (the two highest grades for civil servants) for officers of the DMG/PAS.
The remaining 35pc has been left for the other cadres to fight over – Office Management Group, Commerce and Trade Group, Foreign Service of Pakistan, Inland Revenue Service of Pakistan, Information Group, Military Lands and Cantonment Group, Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service, Postal Group, Railways (Commercial & Transport) Group and Police Service of Pakistan.
After grade 19, officers of the Office Management Group are promoted to the Secretariat Group. In addition, some officers of the other groups also opt to join the Secretariat Group instead of remaining in their mother stream. This is why the Secretariat group promotions are officially divided among various streams.
Over 20 bureaucrats appealed to the IHC this month against the ‘favour’ shown to one group
The officers in the Secretariat group can be – and are – posted to senior levels in the federal and provincial secretariats and elsewhere in any government organisation.
Under the Feb 10, 2014 criteria, 25pc posts of Deputy Secretary (BS-19), 35c posts of Joint Secretary (BS-20), 65pc posts of Additional Secretary (BS-21) and Secretary (BS-22) will be bagged by the DMG officers, leaving 75pc, 65pc and 35pc, respectively, for the other groups.
The bureaucrats serving in different ministries at Pakistan Secretariat and Cabinet Block spend most of their working day discussing the new promotions criterion instead of focusing on their work.
“Our further promotions have been blocked,” says one of them.
An official of the cabinet division who belongs to the Office Management Group told Dawn on condition of anonymity that since the PML-N government heavily relied on the PAS officers, many of its musheers are serving or retired PAS officers.
The PML-N is known for running a ‘tight’ government, without many allies and ministers. This is how Shahbaz Sharif operates in Punjab and this is how Nawaz Sharif runs the federal government. As a result, the two brothers keep a number of portfolios with themselves and then use the bureaucracy to keep the government running. In fact, their dependence on the DMG group is an open secret.
It is in this context that this new SRO is being viewed.
The cabinet division official claims that the SRO, which encroached upon the promotion of other occupational groups, is the brainchild of a retired PAS/DMG officer who is currently serving the government as an adviser to prime minister.
However, the others are not going to go down without putting a fight.
Earlier this month, around two dozen senior bureaucrats moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the SRO. The petitioners include Senior Joint Secretaries Arshad Farooq Faheem, Arif Ibrahim, Mohammad Asghar Chaudhty, Abdul-Akbar Sharifzada, Ilyas Khan, Joint Secretary Abdul Sattar Khokhar, Director General Benazir Income Support Programme Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, DG Intellectual Property Organisation, and Hammad Shamim, DG Nepra.
The petitioners have claimed that the Feb 10 SRO has brought a major change to the Civil Servants Act, 1973, thereby adversely affecting their right to be considered for promotion in their own cadre and will also affect their seniority if officers of other groups are promoted against posts of other occupational groups.
According to the petition, about 960 civil servants will be affected by the government’s latest action.
It may be mentioned that the Secretariat Group and PAS/DMG were created because of the Administrative Reforms of 1973.
The DMG (now PAS) was created by merging the field posts in the civil administration of Districts and Divisions. These officers were also eligible for secretariat appointments through tests and interviews (i.e. lateral entry).
Similarly, the Office Management Group (which at a higher level is called the Secretariat Group) was created on April 12, 1976, by merging the posts of Deputy Secretary and above in the federal government and in the Provincial Secretariats.
Advocate Abdul Rahim Bhatti, counsel for some of the petitioners, said the Feb 10 notification violated the spirit of the Civil Service Reforms of 1973.
He said the government did not have the legal authority to make such major changes in the structure of the Civil Service Act 1973 unless it passed legislation to this effect.
He claimed that it had become difficult for the officers of other cadres to get promotion in the Secretariat Group.
The PAS officers of course do not agree. One such officer posted at the Prime Minister Secretariat argued that the SRO streamlined the promotion-related affairs within the civil bureaucracy.
According to him, promotions in the Secretariat Group were always a headache for governments due to the absence of a set criterion – the promotions would invariably get challenged in courts. “The government has settled this manner by issuing the SRO.”
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014