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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Civil service feud

Since the appointment of a DMG officer as ambassador in Paris, there is a battle between two elite civil service groups. A tirade of allegations and counter-allegations is going on in the press and truth has been the first casualty in the battle.

We lament that institutions have been undermined by the military. But we put forward lame arguments in support of civilians subverting them. How long will institutions continue to be spoiled by political interference and personal likes and dislikes? That this particular DMG officer has done wonders during his stay in Paris as commercial counsellor is a strange excuse put forward by his supporters. Likewise, defence attaches and press counsellors should deserve to become ambassadors too on the basis of their performance.

Gen Musharraf's devolution plan and consequent replacement of deputy commissioners by elected nazims was a major blow to the District Management Group, which had been calling the shots since the Indian Civil Service withered away after Partition and CSPs and the DMG took over

After surrendering the empire of districts and divisions to nazims, the officers licking their wounds started looking for greener pastures. Many did not return from overseas where they had gone for government-sponsored higher studies. Some said farewell to the service and went to NGOs, most of which were already occupied by their seniors who were quick to turn these cosy places into sanctuaries for younger "refugees." The rest of them explored every nook and corner of the public sector and conquered the Authorities, Foundations and Corporations sprinkled across the country.

The fall of the Foreign Service to the DMG is neither impossible nor, if this happens, will it be astonishing. A number of institutions, over a period of time, have been annexed or made colonies earlier also. The Commerce and Trade Group is a regular cadre service entry. The group, a part of the ministry of commerce, is supposed to the manning of all posts abroad dealing with commerce. But its best posts always fall prey to the DMG. The DMG officer earmarked for the ambassadorial slot in France has already stayed in Paris for five years as commercial counsellor, a post belonging to the Commerce and Trade Group.

In the seventies, when a new service group emerged as "Tribal Areas Group" and the DMG was deprived of posts of political agents in the tribal areas, some of which carry fantastic "perks," the entire group vanished in the DMG and was merged with it A number of other institutions like Federal Ombudsman, most of the development authorities like CDA, LDA and KDA, Foundations like Federal Housing Foundation, Provincial Public Relations Departments, Federal and Provincial Public Service Commissions and many more, having nothing to do with district management whatsoever, are in complete or partial control of DMG. No wonder one more victory is added to the long list of achievements.

But times have changed. The days of great royal Indian Civil Service are over and will never come back. The world is heading towards more and more specialisation. Let it be known to DMG that they are no more panacea to all ills. If this country is to survive honourably, institutions will have to be respected.

The writer is a former additional auditor-general of Pakistan

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