LAHORE: The recent announcement by Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to fill 11,000 vacancies through balloting or draw has not only shocked senior officials in the organisation but sent a wave of resentment among over one million candidates who have applied for the jobs advertised some five months ago.

“The decision is in clear violation of rules, regulations and the Constitution of Pakistan. It is really disgusting to hear an ‘unlawfully unique’ decision from a minister of the present government that continues to propagate its agenda of serving the masses on the pattern of the Riasat-i-Madina,” deplores a senior official.

Minister Sheikh Rashid at a press conference at the PR headquarters here on last Saturday had told journalists about his decision which, according to him, had also been endorsed by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the federal cabinet for completing the recruitment process through balloting.

As most of the media persons prefer discussing politics with Mr Rashid, who is never short of predicting about the future of opposition leaders, the issue largely went unnoticed.

Jobs are in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Multan, Sukkur and Quetta divisions of railways

“We have completed the recruitment process against more or less 8,000 vacant jobs. For this we have received 1 million to 1.2m applications. So following the decision of the prime minister and the federal cabinet, we have decided to fill all these vacant jobs (except those in railways Multan and Quetta divisions) through balloting,” the minister had told journalists.

He said the PR had accorded approval to accomplish this task through balloting whether by developing a software or any other means. Interestingly, the minister put the entire responsibility on divisional superintendents: “The respective DSs would be responsible for this process. And if someone worked against merit, he would be taken to task.”

According to a document, about five months ago the PR had announced to fill 11,000 vacant jobs, inviting the eligible candidates to apply along with necessary documents within a stipulated timeframe. These jobs are in the PR’s Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Multan, Sukkur and Quetta divisions and other departments such as the headquarters, workshops, etc.

Since the most of the jobs were of grade 1 to 5, hundreds of thousands of people applied at their relevant PR divisions. Those assigned the task to accomplish the process constituted recruitment/selection committees comprising senior officials of various departments. The committees in marathon scrutiny and interview sessions on a daily basis finally completed the process under the relevant laws, rules and regulations on over 80 per cent of the total 11,000 jobs advertised in the media.

“As they had completed the final lists of the recruited candidates and were about to release orders, they were informed by the PR’s Lahore headquarters as well as the ministry to stop doing so till ‘further orders’,” said another official on condition of anonymity.

So the entire recruitment process was put to halt. And now, the officers have been conveyed to complete this process through balloting. “It is really ridiculous,” he said.

The official said the recruitment process in the PR is always done under the Esta Code and the Civil Servants Appointment, Promotion and Transfer Rules, 1973, that lay down a formal procedure to hire the staff on various positions from grade 1 to 22. He said since under these rules the PR is responsible to recruit staff from grade 1 to 15 and refer the above (higher grade) posts to the Federal Public Service Commission.

“It is very much clear that how to complete the process of recruitment against various positions through written, skilled tests, medical checkup, interview, etc. So if we complete this process through balloting and a medically unfit person succeeds in getting a job, how we can utilise such a person for a certain job where a medically fit candidate is required,” he questioned.

The official said various articles (chapter 1 and 2) of the 1973 Constitution clearly explain fundamental rights of the citizens under which no one is allowed to deny these rights to the people. “So the minister’s decision to hold balloting to fill vacant jobs through balloting is absolutely against the basic spirit of the Constitution as well as the laws, rules and regulations,” he maintained.

“And if someone challenges this decision in a court of law, it will be surely suspended within no time for lacking constitutional, legal, ethical and moral grounds.”

The official counseled the PR administration to take up this issue with the minister immediately so that the right persons can be hired for right jobs.

The railways minister and PR’s chief executive officer/general manager could not be contacted for their comments.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2019