The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Bureaucracy as “a large group of people who are involved in running a government but who are not elected”. Another, more suitable definition, is “a system of government or business that has many complicated rules and ways of doing things”.

Politicians are individuals who belong to various political parties who contest elections and struggle for maximum votes to attain a seat in national or provincial assemblies. Their constitutional mandate is for a period of 5 years only. In short, politicians come and go as the trends of political favoritism amongst the masses keep fluctuating. Politicians are also known as law-makers as only they have the power to make, amend and abolish laws in the national constitution. On the other hand, bureaucrats are part of the permanent state machinery which is by principle supposed to be strictly apolitical and service-oriented, hence the title ‘civil servant’.

Bureaucrats are the actual ‘doers’ in the state, in that they perform functions ranging from simple, official paperwork to signing of MoUs with other countries. They are considered as the backbone of every country and without an effective bureaucracy, a state would inevitably collapse. All of the country’s effective management rests on a stable and committed bureaucracy. On the other hand, this same system can eat the country from within if it persists in corruption and malpractice.

Pakistan’s Bureaucratic Structure

After independence, Pakistan had a small number of civil servants who migrated from the Indian Civil Service (ICS). These individuals later formed part of the nascent Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP), presently Central Superior Services (CSS), which comprises of the following occupational groups:

1. Pakistan Administrative Service (previously known as District Management Group)
2. Foreign Service of Pakistan
3. Commerce & Trade Group
4. Inland Revenue Service
5. Information Group
6. Military Lands & Cantonment Group
7. Office Management Group
8. Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service
9. Police Service of Pakistan
10. Postal Group
11. Railways (Commercial & Transport) Group
12. Pakistan Customs Services

Officers deputed to the groups mentioned are selected through annual CSS exams conducted by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) after which they rise through the ranks commensurate to their accumulated experience and discipline. The highest rank an officer can reach is Grade 22.

Quaid-e-Azam’s Advice to Civil Servants

Addressing a batch of civil servants at Peshawar in April 1948, the Father of the Nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah said:

The reason why I am meeting you is that I wanted to say a few words to you who are occupying very important positions in the administration of this province. The first thing that I want to tell you is that you should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician. If you want to raise the prestige and greatness of Pakistan you must not fall victim to any pressure but do your duty as servants of the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly.

The services are the backbone of the state. Governments are formed. Governments are defeated. Prime Ministers come and go, ministers come and go, but you stay on. Therefore, there is a very great responsibility placed on your shoulders. You should have no hand in supporting this political party or that political party, this political leader or that political leader. This is not your business.

Whichever government is formed according to the constitution, and who ever happens to be the prime minister or minister, coming into power in the ordinary course, your duty is only to serve that government loyally and morally but, at the same time, fearlessly, maintaining your high reputation, your prestige, your honour and the integrity of your service. If you start with that determination, you will make a great contribution to the building up of Pakistan of our conceptions and our dream-a glorious state and one of the greatest nations in the world.

While impressing this upon you, I wish also to take the opportunity of impressing upon our leaders and politicians in the same way, that if they ever try to interfere with you and bring political pressure to bear upon you, which leads to nothing but corruption, bribery and nepotism-which is a horrible disease and for which not only your province but others too are suffering-if they try to interfere with you in this way, I say they are doing nothing but disservice to Pakistan.

I hope that each of you will understand his own sphere of duty and responsibility and act with others harmoniously in complete cooperation, keeping in mind that each has to do his duty within the sphere to which he belongs, if on your part start with that determination and enthusiasm – and I hope the other side will also realize what a terrible evil they are raising up and how it demoralizes the services to try and influence this department or that departments, this office or that officer-and if you stick to your determination you will have done a great service to your nation. Putting pressure on service people is, I know, a very common fault of politicians and those with influence in political parties, but I hope you will now, from today, resolve and determine to act according to the humble advice I am giving you.

May be some of you may fall victim for not satisfying the whims of ministers. I hope it does not happen, but you may even be put to trouble not because you are doing anything wrong but because you are doing right.

Sacrifices have to be made, and I appeal to you, to come forward if need be to make the sacrifice and face the position of being put on the black list or being otherwise worried or troubled. If some of you will give me the opportunity of your sacrifice, believe me we will find a remedy for that very soon. I tell you that you will not remain on the black list if you discharge your duties honestly, sincerely and loyally to the state. It is you who can give us the opportunity to create a powerful machinery which will give you complete sense of security.” (Ref: ‘Quaid and the services’ by Hafizur Rehman, published in The News on June 25, 2005)

From the Quaid’s speech above, we can deduce the following five golden statements of advice:

1. Bureaucrats should never be influenced by any political pressure.
2. Bureaucrats are servants of the people and the state.
3. Bureaucrats should remain apolitical throughout their official service.
4. Bureaucrats should work within their defined areas of responsibility with hard word, integrity and sincerity; they should cooperate with counterparts in other departments harmoniously.
5. Bureaucrats must not be shy of, or hesitate from, offering any sacrifices for doing their job well.

What do we see today?

Corruption, bribery, nepotism; these have unfortunately become the hallmark of today’s bureaucracy. Not that all civil servants engage in such activities, but the vast majority openly and discreetly does so. From petty bribes on small files to major kickbacks worth millions in transnational investment deals, a large chunk of the bureaucracy finds many ‘creative’ ways to mint more money under the guise of civil service. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had declared bureaucracy as a national service for the state and its well-being and as expected, many selfish officers took it as their own well-being.

In a report titled ‘Reforming Pakistan’s Civil Service‘ and published on February 16, 2010, the International Crisis Group examined the major issues within the Pakistani bureaucracy that need to be overcome/resolved. A personal summary is presented below:
• Over-centralization of powers, to the extent that recruitments/transfers of clerks and low-level staff require approval from Secretaries or Ministers, thus wasting their time and efforts instead of utilizing the same in implementing governance policies.
• Widespread corruption and lack of accountability/transparency.
• Poor training resources and facilities.
• Poor criteria for performance evaluation, with promotions mostly approved based on loyalty to ruling politicians.

The report concludes with the following words:

While the accountability of officials must be effective, impartial and transparent, higher salaries and benefits, and better conditions of employment, could significantly reduce incentives for corruption. The civilian government should also focus on transforming the civil service into a more flexible and responsive institution. Reform should therefore include drastic changes to a rigid and over-centralized authority structure that has been unable to address local fiscal needs and underdevelopment, by delegating important administrative and financial functions to lower tiers. Bureaucratic rules, procedures and structures should be modernized and training programs geared towards not just producing a class of capable civil servants, but restoring a spirit of public service.”


Pakistan’s bureaucrats should be mindful of the tremendous responsibilities on their shoulders and channel their efforts accordingly for the welfare of the state and its people. Unless Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s sincere advice is heeded, affairs will continue as they are until the day they rot themselves out completely.

The day state machinery collapses will be the day Pakistan will get overrun by adversaries. In such a situation, even the military will not prove helpful as it is not trained in the art of public administration. We have seen botched attempts during the Musharraf era.