Assistant Commissioner, Sialkot & Our Bureaucracy

Neither civil. Nor service. Nehru said that. Churchill also said something to that effect. Firdaus only went a few steps ahead; from literature into theatrics.

Establishment is a curse. And we have two establishments: civil and military – who poke their nose into everything they shouldn’t.

This is going to be a long one. However, it won’t be boring. Trust me.

Let me clarify first. Firdaus Aashiq Awan is one ugly duckling of PTI, who has a political history with PPP. Her overall political career has nothing to offer except utter(ing) nonsense. That’s it; those are her credentials. A few days back, Rana Sanaullah of PML-N was threatening a bureaucrat publicly too. So, don’t jump into the wagon of any political party at the moment.

These ministers and parliamentarians have the political life of merely 5 years. A tenure. Then they have to work hard again – with money mostly – to be in the game for another 5 years. Another tenure. Tenure by tenure, they struggle to stay.

On the contrary, are these bureaucrats. They stay. They have a tenure of life. They don’t die. They keep sucking the blood of the public. Like leaches and parasites. And they treat the same public as Dalits are treated in India.

Let’s focus on this civil establishment for a while without any political affiliation. Let this be non-political. Apolitical.

Most of the times, these parliamentarians face the heat of lethargic red-tapism of bureaucrats. Since East India Company, the drafting and noting is still the same. Official e-mail communication is absolutely absent because this doesn’t suit them. They will have to read emails themselves, which they can’t do.

The laws are as old as the Civil Secretariat building. And with amendments and substitutions, things are so complex that these bureaucrats themselves are clueless. They have made this web of rules and laws that they keep on changing without knowing the history of these same rules and laws. In the end, they have established a matrix where THEY are the virus.

They will remain clueless.

An MBBS doctor can become the Inspector General. BA Islamiat can become Secretary Health. Finance Department can be run by a Civil Engineer. Most of the lot is of MA and BA graduates, who – with a little luck and cramming – become the rulers. No insult is intended here to anyone; except to the intellect we get in the bureaucracy.

Have you seen them after passing the exam and establishing their Twitter handles? They all tell the same tale. I did that. I followed that. And guess what? People who have attempted all the 12 papers and have failed; have exactly the same tale to tell. Honestly speaking, no one knows how they passed or failed. Because there is a very thin line of success and failure.

When I scored 65 in essay, I know how I did. As I didn’t go to any academy and I didn’t know any rules, I did what I liked. I used markers. I used Urdu and Punjabi poetry. My topic was blasphemy (in light of Charlie Hebdo’s episode) and I chose it solely because I knew not many people would choose that one. I wanted to be different so as to end the boredom for the paper checker. I presented liberal views, with Ghamidi’s interpretation of the religion, and ended with Voltaire’s freedom of speech and our freedom to ignore such issues. 65. That’s what I got.

I failed Precis and this is the point where His Highness will resume the main topic of bureaucrats.

They call themselves the ‘cream of the country’. Even though they know that the cream doesn’t even participate in CSS exams. I participated and I was the worst one – only academically, behave! – in my extended family.

And some don’t even participate. Army has 10% share / seats in PAS (ex DMG), FSP and PSP. They get into Civil Services without even CSS exam and interview. This is another legacy of Zia. Still intact. But who cares. Top notch civil posts are with the army anyway. Why don’t these bureaucrats get offended here?

All they know are some words. Some jargon. Some poetry. Some philosophy. Some lopsided Marx references. Some Iqbaliat. Some religion.

And attire. Perfectly suited and booted. Shaved. Cologned. Manicured. Pedicured. Scented. Nothing stinks.

Noted. May be considered. Ok. Please put up. Please examine. Signed. Approved.

You remember when an AC from Burewala attacked a guard physically? All these bureaucrats were not that furious then.

Anyway. Let me narrate to you how this shit of bureaucracy works in the civil secretariat.

Have you seen the Secretariat? Everyone is running. Officers, personal assistants, naib qasids, officials; everyone is running around. With pages and files. Working papers and Summaries. Everyone is working; yet there is hardly any work being done. That’s the game.

And then there are these bureaucrats. The whole Department is dependent on the mood. If the mood is off, all the visitors from as far as D. G. Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, and Mianwali will have to go back from Lahore without a meeting. The public, in general, comes to the center with fingers crossed. Most of the times they have to return because the bureaucrat is either not in the mood or is absent from office.

Meetings are called and then postponed at the last minute. People come to the center and then leave to their districts without a second thought.

For development schemes, PC-Is are prepared. These PC-Is are uploaded online too. Yet tens of copies of thousands of pages are printed. This is a separate business. For example, for every PSDP (Federal funded) scheme, 50 copies of PC-Is are submitted to Planning Commission, Islamabad. A single copy of PC-I can be of 2,000 pages. Imagine this. This is all trash.

Every single scheme – even before its approval – incurs a wastage of thousands of pages. And if PC-I is amended or revised – a minor change of a single table or graph – the whole exercise is repeated. Loads and loads of trash who nobody reads. No one.

There is the same amount of pages of Working Papers for each Cabinet Meeting. In federal. In provinces. This is a business of paper. Of procurement. Of margins. These margins can be in cash or in air tickets.

Do you want to learn a little about procurement? Tenders. Bids. Technical evaluation. Financial evaluation. Award. Order. Delivery. Inspection. Payment. Every single stage is a business. Every single stage is of corruption.

I wrote about the ‘General Wing’ before, that it is the center of corruption of any department. Section Officer (General) is at the bottom most tier. He manages POL (petroleum, oil, lubricants), TA / DA, daily expenses, salaries, etc. of the Department. And this is the hub. Even an honest person cannot claim his/her TA/DA without offering a certain share.

The ugliness of the General Wing is to this level that they even take a share from the salaries of daily wage workers. Those who are hired on Rs.18,000/- per month, get Rs.16,000/- or Rs.17,000/- per month. This wing doesn’t even shudder on robbing the lowest most strata of the economy.

They can eat Zakat. They can eat funds for mosques. They can eat leftovers. They can eat anything. Like leaches and parasites. But with decorum. With knives and forks. And a smile.

The Accountant General office is another misery. People have to run up and down the rotting, rickety stairs to get their pensions initiated. Without bribery, the system does not work. Online system is adopted only in those areas where corruption has the least chances. In the remaining areas, physical file work is in place since the colonial times. To rob people. To make them suffer. So that they get tired of the system and pay. This is how hell operates.

You must have your own experiences of Excise and Taxation, Customs, Railways, Trade, etc. Every department has the same system which has been established for corruption to flourish.

And have you seen the attitude? They abuse people. They call them bad names. They make them stand when they want to. They make them wait outside for hours. They tell them to shut up. They raise their voice whenever they want. There are some who are so ugly that their juniors quake with fear. Because they terminate you when they can or they throw you far when they cannot terminate you.

Now the AC Sahiba of Sialkot, who was sitting in her air conditioned car and got burned. Garmi main kharab.

She was clueless to be honest. She came late. She had no idea what was being sold. She was trying to present stupid justifications to all the questions. She even mentioned the hot weather. For her, her work is nothing but a way to live a prestigious and elite life. If ministers cannot scold them, no one can. Literally, no one can.

The fruits were rotten because they were for the public and the public doesn’t matter. The loud-mouth minister has been wrong all her life, but that day, she did utter some sanity. She was absolutely right about the pathetic attitude of the bureaucracy and their lack of empathy towards their job and the general public.

In the eyes of the establishment or the bureaucracy, you don’t exist. Digest that.

You people must have your own opinion. You must. You have been ridiculed and offended by these colonial leftovers. You see, they are so colonial that they are attracted to all the colonial buildings. They love to reside in their colonial heritage.

This is an outdated system. George Orwell called it outdated in the 1940s. it’s 2021 for God sake.

There can be technocracy. There can be a private model of organic growth where employees grow from the bottom to the top. There can be particular education for a particular post. There can be proper training for their brains and not just “Commoners Training” to teach them they are special. There can be other benchmarks. But this one: civil bureaucracy, is outdated, rotten, pathetic and ugly.

You don’t exist for them. Hence, nothing is offered to you.

Once a driver of a senior bureaucrat told me, “Sir, they don’t even consider us humans.” My instant rebuttal was, “And we don’t consider them sane OR intelligent.” We both laughed and then I maintained my decorum.

After all, His Highness is in a different league altogether.

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