Can Imran Khan start the exercise from Punjab?
One would readily agree with Imran Khan that the confidence of the civil servants has been badly shattered and the country needs a de-politicized bureaucracy.
But is the PM really serious about isolating bureaucracy from political pressures?
The PTI government’s performance in Punjab over the past six months indicates the opposite. There are glaring examples of punishing officers who refused to accede to unlawful requests of party legislators or bigwigs. At least two DCs, two IGs and one DPO were transferred for political reasons followed by resignation from the head of police reforms commission.
While still in opposition Khan removed the first chief election commissioner for PTI polls and forced the second one to resign indicating that he wants loyalty rather than honesty and professionalism in institutions. The PPP and PML-N too sidelined professional bureaucrats and promoted loyalists. There is a perception that after PPP’s bureaucracy and PML-N’s bureaucracy, we are going to have a PTI’s bureaucracy, which would, in the words of the PM, be required to “devote their energies towards translating the government’s political vision into reality.” What the country needs instead is a professional civil service.
Imran Khan selected a competent officer to run the KP police, giving him complete power and stopping provincial politicians from interfering with his command. A new law was enacted to give the IG powers to select and appoint senior officers under his command unlike other provinces where the chief minister appoints superintendents, and lower officials are appointed and removed on the recommendations of MPAs and local political heavyweights.
There is a perception that Khan has been convinced that unlike KP, he will lose control over Punjab if legislators are not allowed to have government officials of their choice in their constituencies.
To negate this he will have to restore the powers of the department heads, the chief secretary and the IG, let postings and promotions be controlled by their department heads and not the Chief Minister and to also restore the powers of the establishment secretary at the centre. He will have to ensure that government officials are not transferred and promoted by the PM’s Office and they have at least a three-year long tenure.