Provincial bureaucrats up in arms against centre’s move

Published March 16, 2021
In this file photo, Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at the PM Office.—PPI/File
In this file photo, Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at the PM Office.—PPI/File

ISLAMABAD: The association of provincial bureaucrats has rejected the federal government’s decision to increase by three times the number of federal bureaucrats on provincial posts and vowed to challenge the decision in high courts.

The strong reaction by the All Pakistan Provincial Civil Services Association (APPCSA) has forced Special Secretary to the Prime Minister on Establishment Shehzad Arbab to issue a statement in a bid to ease the tension between the provincial and federal bureaucracies.

On March 12, the Establishment Division amended Rule 17 of the Civil Service of Pakistan (Compo­sition and Cadre) Rules, 1954, and changed the composition of the provincial bureaucracy. According to the amendment, the number of federal bureaucrats on provincial posts increased from 299 to 1,121.

Explaining the changes in the cadre schedule of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), Mr Arbab stated that they were made keeping in view the unwieldy cadre strength of the service. He said it was an attempt to rationalise the cadre strength in line with available officers.

Decision to increase number of federal bureaucrats on provincial posts rejected

Talking to Dawn, APPCSA spokesperson Tariq Mehmood Awan said that the association had rejected the so-called reforms and termed them encroachment upon the right of the provincial bureaucracy.

Naveed Shehzad Mirza, deputy commissioner of Hafizabad, and the incumbent president of the Punjab Management Service Officers Association, said this amendment was made in violation of Article 240 of the Constitution which deals with the bureaucracy.

In reply to a question about reforms that allowed absorption of provincial officers in the federal bureaucracy, Mr Mirza described the Establishment Division’s offer to provincial bureaucrats as a lollypop. He pointed out that after absorption the provincial officer would be at the bottom in the seniority list of the federal bureaucracy. Moreover, he said, an officer from Punjab could be posted to Balochistan under these arrangements.

A joint declaration issued by the presidents of the Management Ser­vices Officers Association of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochis­tan, Naveed Shahzad Mirza, Farha­tullah Marwat and Tariq Ramzan, respectively, denounced the notification of the Establishment Division.

The joint declaration states that the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS/Ex CSP) has earmarked for itself a huge number of provincial posts. “By doing so, they have usurped the authority of the provincial assemblies vested in the Provincial Assemblies under Article 240(b) of the Constitution and have illegally enhanced the reservation of provincial posts for themselves from 299 to 1,121.

Post-sharing formula

In 1993, Mr Arbab said, a post-sharing formula was decided between the federation and the provinces and the percentages therein were applied to full cadre strength of the provinces. This application of percentages to total number of posts intimated by the provinces took the sanctioned seats of PAS to almost 1,739 in the provinces. However, the actual number of officers available for posting to provinces was not sufficient and there was a persistent shortage of PAS officers in provinces.

To overcome these shortages, an exercise was started in 2019 to identify the posts where PAS officers had not been posted historically, but such posts were being used for calculation of cadre strength of PAS. After identification of such posts, in consultation with provinces, it was decided that these posts should be subtracted for the purpose of application of percentages under the 1993 formula.

After deduction of a number of seats, where PAS officers were never posted, the post-sharing formula was applied to the remaining seats. This brought down the cadre strength of posts in provinces to 1061 from 1739 in BS-17 to BS-20.

According to Mr Arbab, this rationalisation of cadre strength will serve two purposes. On the one hand, it will reduce the shortages of PAS officers in provinces, while on the other hand, it has given the provinces a leverage of 678 posts which can be utilised for promotions of Provincial Services Officers.

Further, in addition to above 678 seats, the federal government has decided to induct 51 BS-19 officers of Provincial Management Services and Provincial Civil Services into Pakistan Administrative Service against the cadre strength of Service in Federal Secretariat.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2021

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