Daily Times Editorial 28 November 2019

Shakeup in bureaucracy


Ideally, transfers and postings of the bureaucracy should not make the headlines. But when reshuffles become routine, they are bound to raise eyebrows of the public and stakeholders. The Punjab government has earned a name for itself for nocturnal ambushes on civil servants in its 15-month tenure. In yet another shakeup, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government late on Tuesday removed Punjab Chief Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar and Inspector General of Police retired Capt Arif Nawaz Khan, replacing them with Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan and Shoaib Dustagir. Earlier, the Supreme Court had taken notice of the late night transfer of the Pakpattan district police chief on political whims. The Civil Secretariat will see the third chief secretary and the Central Police Office the fifth provincial chief in the present government’s tenure. As the new top civil and police bosses assume offices, they will install their own team on all major posts, which means the chessboard of the bureaucracy will keep busy for the next few weeks. With such major moves, the rumour mill goes into overdrive impacting the morale of officers and their performance. The public also views such frequent transfers and postings as a sign of weakness of the government.
There has not been transparency in bureaucratic reshuffles for decades. Most of the time political wrangling, and not administrative failure, shows certain officers the door. The merciless shakeups have seen many junior officers on senior posts in utter disregard of rules and service ethics. That is, of course, an insult to senior officers. The government needs to come up with rules and manners regarding transfers and postings. Some slots have become a platform for the officers to stay briefly and then move on. Take the example of the office of the provincial higher education secretary; in the last 15 months, six officers assumed the office and left. Same is the case with the top provincial officers of health, industries, excises, food and prosecution. Also, divisional and district level shakeups have become a routine. In the Anita Durab case, the Supreme Court laid down rules for transfers and postings of officers. In 2017, the Supreme Court thwarted the Sindh government’s move to change the provincial police officer, stating that an IGP should complete his term. Regarding appointments, removal and promotions, the verdict stated they must be made in accordance with the law and rules. Referring to the tenure, posting and transfer of civil servants, the verdict said when the ordinary tenure for a posting was specified in the law, it must be respected and not changed, except for compelling reasons


Efforts for financial inclusion


Policies making the rich richer and the poor poorer have never been reexamined in our part of the world. The end product is the accumulation of wealth in a few hands and a small, diminishing middle class. Realising the need to make an effective financial inclusion strategy, Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched an initiative under his government’s flagship poverty alleviation programme, Ehsaas, in partnership with Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, who is United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. Even before coming to power, Khan often spoke of the lack of efforts to make financial products and services accessible and affordable to the poor. Such disparities have created the barriers that keep a sizeable population from participating in the financial sector and using services to improve their lives. At a ceremony, the prime minister declared that his government was focusing on policies aiming at raising the earning the poor section of society, and Ehsaas was one such endevour. He criticised not only domestic trends, but also the worldwide system in which rich nations were getting richer and poor countries poorer. As per a UN report, the value of assets of 3.8 billion people is owned by 26 richest billionaires. Such accumulation of wealth leaves half of the population on earth below the poverty line.
As per World Bank figures, financial inclusion can make a turnaround in underdeveloped countries as it “facilitates day-to-day living, and helps families and businesses plan for everything from long-term goals to unexpected emergencies.” Queen Maxima, who is spearheading financial inclusion efforts, says it is vital for Pakistan’s economic progress to include women and families in rural areas in the fintech network. Financial inclusion will help the government provide sustenance to the poor and education to children. With the widespread networks of bank and branchless banking, thanks to the easy availability of telecom network and the internet, it is hoped most of the people will be availing mainstream financial services and other benefits. The rural as well as urban segments of the poor population should be educated about the benefits of financial inclusion. More people in financial inclusion network also means the economy will be better documented. *

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