The Express Tribune Editorial 7 June 2021

Goodbye, SPSC!

 

The Hyderabad circuit bench of the Sindh High Court (SHC) has declared the Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) defunct. The bench — led by Justice Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan and Justice Muhammad Saleem Jessar — also ruled that “all tests, interviews, selection, appointments, tenders or any act doable under SPSC Act, 1989, or the rules are suspended forthwith”. The commission, which has served to recruit government officers for Sindh for over 30 years, has often come under fire for nepotism and corruption. Moreover, the court also suspended the SPSC Act, 1989 — as well as and two other enactments governing the SPSC — declaring it ultra vires to the Constitution.
The ruling was made in response to six identical petitions that challenged the appointment of medical officers in 2018, where the petitioners had claimed that they had been disregarded for an interview despite sufficient marks in the written test. Moreover, those who had not even cleared the test were called for an interview due to their political affiliations, the petitioners submitted. While the court had earlier suspended the SPSC’s proceedings until it proved transparency, the final ruling of nullifying the commission proves that the court was right in its earlier ruling. The commission has clearly failed to prove that its selection criterion has been transparent and purely based on merit. Moreover, it has also failed to inform the court of why the chief minister, and not the governor, of the province was involved in the appointments made at the SPSC, unlike in other provinces.
For years the SPSC has been used by the Sindh government to employ undeserving candidates into the provincial government. It had overreached its jurisdiction by appointing chairpersons and members of the commission, and also by failing to implement an age restriction for both chairperson and members. The unaccounted and unlimited years of appointments have damaged the provincial bureaucracy as unqualified persons occupy government positions, funded by taxpayer money. The mammoth-sized archaic departments bear witness to the officers’ incompetency while the sluggish pace of work shows the inefficiency of the departments. It is hoped that with the discontinuation of the SPSC, the Sindh government corrects its ways and employs officers who are worthy and also worth the buck. Moreover, it should do away with any employee that was hired through nepotism, to cut down on the burgeoning bureaucracy feeding on the provincial treasury.

 

 

Hosting World Environment Day

 

The environment torch has been passed on to Pakistan as the country had the pleasure of hosting the World Environment Day 2021 this past Saturday. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme, this year’s theme was ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ — aimed at resetting our relations with nature.
The World Environment Day event marked the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 in order to reinvigorate our collective focus on preventing and reversing the loss of degraded natural ecosystems to fight the impacts of climate change over the next 10 years. While this day will help in promoting worldwide awareness, the fight against climate change is present and continuous as we are living in times of ecological crisis. “The earth is resilient but she needs our help”, UN Secretary General Guterres said in his speech made at the virtual event.
For Pakistan, this international achievement has come about because of our relentless commitment at achieving a sustainable future. During the past few years, ambitious projects such as the “Billion Tree Tsunami” project and Clean and Green Pakistan have propelled the country in becoming an international frontrunner in the fight against climate change. This year’s commitments, too, showed great promise. The most essential feature that was successfully highlighted during the event was the contribution of the local communities towards the cause of the clean and green environment.
Both Prime Minister Imran Khan and Federal Minister on Climate Malik Amin Aslam elaborated on the importance of empowering local and indigenous communities by providing them sustainable job opportunities and making them active stakeholders in the process. The Prime Minister thanked our local forest guards, 10 of whom have lost their lives, in the fight against the timber mafia. There was also talk of restoring one million hectares of forest cover in the country along with a new initiative “Recharge Pakistan” whereby flood water will be diverted onto wetlands along the river Indus — something that shows immense potential for mitigating effects of natural disasters.
However, serious policy and infrastructural constraints due to lobbying done by industrialists, businessmen and others are a serious cause for concern. As a result of this, a significant increase in carbon emissions and coal-based projects have recently been witnessed. This needs to be addressed if we are to leverage our international green credibility to procure international funding. Along with national development, we must realise that 20 fossil fuel companies contribute to a third of all carbon emissions. This was the perfect time for Prime Minister Imran to sternly call out First World countries to curb their rate of emissions but he failed in doing so — a missed opportunity, indeed.
There is an enormous burden of reparations on our generation. The theme, to restore and repair, is grounded in the need to give nature a chance to heal itself, which can be done by reducing carbon emissions, curbing pollution and reducing plastic production globally. The world must understand that our real fight is not with nature or climate change, but with ourselves.

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