. . . . . .  



In medieval England, the ultimate form of punishment was to be hanged until you were almost
but not quite dead, drawn which was a polite way of saying being disembowelled, quartered i.e. cut into four sections, and then, in case you were still faintly alive, you were beheaded.    

Over the four hundred years of its existence, the Civil Service has endured similar tortures. It has been hung, drawn, quartered, and periodically lost its head.

In 1947, at the time of our Independence, for example, the ICS as a body became divided,
with 94 Muslims opting for Pakistan.

In 1958, Ayub Khan pruned it of corrupt officers and then reorganised the local
administration with the Basic Democrats system.

His successor Yahya Khan did another round of spring-cleaning by removing first 303
and then 1303 officers.

Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went even further and ordered an irreversible reorganisation of the
service, introducing the hitherto novel concept of Lateral Entry. He may have felt that as himself had come into political power in a sense laterally in December 1970, there should be no hindrance to others who aspired to join the ranks of the administrative elite.

Every ruler since then – whether elected or self-appointed – has succumbed to the urge to
have an administrative service that is re-engineered for his or her own use.

It is a tribute to its inherent resilience of the Civil Service that that it has survived such determined depredations.

Kiran Khurshid’s masterly treatise describes in detail what I have summarised in these few words. Her book spans four hundred years. It would be foolhardy of me to attempt a comprehensive review this afternoon that would do full justice to her scholastic efforts. She has presented us and future readers with a colourful panorama, which like one of Jimmy Engineer’s expansive canvases, presents the sweep of history without losing the telling detail. 

Unless I had read Kiran’s book, I would never have guessed that the city of Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) had been laid out on the radiating lines of a Union Jack.  Or that the first Indian ever to be inducted
into the Indian Civil Service was Satyendranath Tagore, the elder brother of Rabindranath Tagore. Or that three members of the ICS batch of 1944 photographed together during their training at Dehra Dun - Agha Shahi, Mian Riazuddin Ahmed, and AGN Kazi – were stalwarts it was my pleasure to know and
to work with during my professional career.

Mr AGN Kazi, I understand, is still alive. He comes from a service that quite obviously has strong genes. Another senior – Mr Samuel Martin Burke – died last year at the age of 104 years.

What is about it this service, then, that gives it an aura – an aura of superiority, of enduring durability, almost one might say supra-human immortality?

Each of you will have his own answers or explanations for this. You could not do better though than to use the SWOT analysis provided by Kiran in her book.

The strengths of the Civil Service are predictably Historical Roots, Job Security, Social Status and Prestige bordering on Elitism.

Weaknesses? Low salaries, lapse into Nepotism, Abuse of authority. I could go on but I
leave the longer list of your weaknesses to your enemies.

Interestingly in Opportunities, Kiran mentions Deputation to International Agencies, exposure
to International Best practices, and Foreign Scholarships. I searched but could not find under Opportunities, the opportunity to serve our country.

And finally under Threats, Kiran rightly heads her list with Politicisation of the Civil Service, Negative Public image, Frequent Transfer, Irrational Restructuring, and perhaps the most insidious of all Threats, Recipes for Good Governance at the behest of Donor Agencies.     

As Abraham Lincoln once questioned to supporters of Slavery, what is about this virtue that everyone wants to see it applied to others, but never to themselves?

Kiran joined the Civil Service in 2003. That was thirty-six years after I had my first encounter with a bureaucrat in Islamabad. I had gone to see him in connection with an appeal against an unfair assessment of Capacity Taxation newly applied to the textile industry.

I told him that his superior was waiting for him to send up a note with the file.  His response intrigued me. ‘How can I send him a note until you send me the note?’

Kiran, this afternoon belongs to your scholarly researches, not to my shallow reminiscences.

Over the years, my encounters have been myriad and wide-ranging.  The most recent has been as a member of the Academic Council of the National School of Public Policy and as the Directing Staff at its National Management Course.

One gets a good insight into the attitudes of different batches of civil servants from their behaviour during these intense 22 week courses. At best they are brilliant; at worst, they exhibit what Kiran defines as Intellectual Inertia, and what I would describe as Institutionalised Apathy.   

In herchapter on Reforms, Kiran has reminded us of the Aitchison Commission of 1886-87. Reform of the then Indian Civil Service was one of the broad range of reforms that also encompassed the reform of education, of which included the establishment of Aitchison College in the same year, 1886.

In a sense, our College is the experiment that succeeded.

It took another 88 years for a similar experiment to succeed. Following Mr Bhutto’s reforms, women were allowed to be inducted in the DMG, Foreign Service and Customs services.  

Imagine how dull the service would have been without Ms Gulzar Bano, the first female Cabinet Secretary, or Parveen Shakir, or today Kiran Khurshid.

Kiran has demonstrated through her infinitely well-researched work, its faultless layout, and the praise-worthy analysis (supported by informative tables) it contains, that our Civil Service is still in the right hands. If only we could say the same for the steering wheel of our ship of state....

12 March 2012
All Speeches
Latest Books :: Latest Articles :: Latest SPEECHES :: Latest POEMS