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THE practice of inducting armed forces personnel into the civil administration needs to be seen in the context of the 19th-century British experience in the non-regulation provinces of India.

The expanding British rule in central and northwest India resulting from the annexation of Oudh, Punjab, Sindh, the Central Provinces and the NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) was the result of campaigns conducted by men like Napier, Edwardes, Nicholson, Jacob, Munro and Sandeman.

Once the non-regulation provinces were functional, these erstwhile military commanders were designated as deputy commissioners. The arrangement was institutionalised with the creation of the Indian Political Service (IPS). Drawing its officers from the armed forces (66 per cent) and the ICS (33 per cent), it was an elite service set up for a specific purpose. It must be emphasised here that no military officers were absorbed in the ICS, the only exception being the War Service appointees of 1944-46 when no ICS examination was conducted.

After independence, a strong military-bureaucratic axis emerged in Pakistan. Its armed forces component naturally demanded a quota in the civil services. The IPS and War Service appointments were cited as precedents. What was conveniently forgotten was that these British schemes were area and time specific. In 1950, after the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) was established as a premier service, the cabinet secretariat decided that 10 per cent of the inductions into this cadre would be from amongst armed forces officers. This decision was never put into effect.

After Gen Ayub Khan seized power in 1958, he expressed a desire to promote a horizontal movement from the armed forces to the civil administration. There was no overt resistance from senior civil servants. In Eqbal Ahmad’s words “….at the top level both (civil and military bureaucracy) were manned by the same class … sharing identical interests and outlook”. Ayub revived the 1950 decision of military inductions into the civil service. It was agreed that the defence ministry would send panels of eligible officers to the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) which would finalise selections. Between 1960 and 1963, 14 officers were appointed. After 1963, the scheme was discontinued. Even in this limited recruitment, patronage became self-evident; two of the selectees were sons of generals and one a Sandhurst graduate.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s administrative reforms of 1973 introduced the concept of lateral entry into the civil service. Bypassing the FPSC, selections were largely made on the basis of nepotism and cronyism. In his tenure (1972-1977) Bhutto appointed 83 armed forces officers to the secretariat, foreign affairs, tribal areas and district management groups.

After Gen Ziaul Haq’s coup of 1977, a review of all such appointments was undertaken. Predictably, the military appointments made by Bhutto were not questioned. In fact, Zia went one step further. Under his tutelage, a new arrangement was worked out to assist the entry of junior armed forces officers into the civil service. A pliant establishment division issued an office memorandum in 1980 setting up a Defence Services Officers Selection Board (DSOSB) headed by the defence secretary to process the selections.

While Bhutto’s tactics reeked of favouritsm and outright partiality, Zia’s were crafty and devious. The FPSC was cut out of the loop. Gen Faiz Ali Chishti, Zia’s right-hand man had this to say: “Mr Bhutto was blamed for destroying the institution of the civil service … by recruiting his own party men … and Gen Zia was going to do it. If the PPP was Mr Bhutto’s party, then the armed forces were Gen Zia’s party.” The floodgates were now open and nepotism reigned supreme. Gen Zia’s own ADCs, staff officers of corps commanders, sons and sons-in-law of senior armed forces officers, even army doctors specialising in nuclear medicine were blessed.

Between 1985 and 1999, the political governments did nothing to reverse the trend. In Punjab, then chief minister Nawaz Sharif ‘relaxed’ the relevant rules and appointed two principal staff officers (a colonel and a major), his chief pilot and two majors to the provincial services.

The arrival of Musharraf saw the civil bureaucracy relegated to the role of a junior partner of its military counterpart. The large-scale influx of armed forces officers into the civil service was masterminded by Lt Gen Tanwir Naqvi, the head of the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB).

In May 2000, he spelt out his position unambiguously. “The question is whether the army controls Pakistan or the bureaucracy. The conundrum is that it is not possible to transform the country without the bureaucracy. The army must control both political and administrative power....”

The keyword was no longer ‘patronage’; it was ‘domination’. Musharraf and his henchmen genuinely believed in the superiority of the army. In an interview with Ayesha Siddiqa in 2002, Maj Gen Rashid Qureshi cockily observed that “the average military officer is better qualified and more intelligent than the average civil bureaucrat”.

The Zia and Musharraf eras saw the emergence of a new category of officers who came from the urban and rural middle class.

In the words of Eqbal Ahmad, “…they are prone to viewing the world in straight lines … the regiment would be their model of running the country….” It is this element that both Zia and Musharraf wanted to induct into the civil administration.

Presently, out of roughly 650 DMG officers, around 100 are from the army, air force and navy. Notwithstanding the desire of junior armed forces officers to serve in snug and rewarding civilian assignments, policymakers in the defence establishment need to reassess this programme. Why are men trained in the highly professional environment of the armed forces academies wasted by being sent to a run-of-the-mill civilian set-up? Given the critical security situation in Pakistan, do we not need to utilise each and every armed forces officer to do the job he is specifically trained for? Has anyone bothered to calculate or assess the depletion caused to the quality of officer corps by this efflux?

The writer is a retired civil servant and the author of Political Administrators: The Story of the Civil Service of Pakistan.

aminullahc@yahoo.com