Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal announced this week that the upper age limit would be increased to 30 years instead of 28, for taking the Central Superior Services (CSS) examination from 2017 as per the civil services reforms.
The news has been warmly welcomed by CSS aspirants as well as teachers. According to the proposed reforms, it would be mandatory for CSS aspirants to have 16 years of education before they are eligible to take the exam. Currently the minimum education required to take up this exam is 14 years as per the rules of Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). According to the proposed reforms, a specialized cadre will be introduced to enhance the efficiency of civil servants.
Deputy Director for the KIPS CSS Programme Ahtisham Jan Butt told Pakistan Today that it was a remarkable step from the government as students would benefit from the decision. He said that 90 per cent aspirants who aimed to take the CSS exam already had 16 years of education and the proposed reforms would further strengthen the 16 year education system.
“The two year increase in the upper age limit would ensure that the mature candidates will take this significant exam,” Ahtisham, who has been coaching the CSS aspirants at Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Multan campuses of KIPS for the last 8 years, said and added that these reforms would be implemented only after the notification of FPSC. He expressed the hope that the incumbent chairman of FPSC would approve these reforms as he is said to have a good working relationship with the current government. FPSC Chairman Naveed Akram Cheema has previously worked as Punjab Chief Secretary and enjoys good relations with the current government.
Dr Muhammad Afzal Ali, a CSS aspirant told this scribe that ‘non-serious candidates’ would be screened out after the requirement of 16 years of education. Ali, who is a graduate of King Edward Medical University (KEMU), was of the view that the CSS exams demand well-educated and mature candidates because of their significance as these people have to implement government policies effectively. Ali, however, was not happy with all the proposed reforms: “The specialized cadre in the CSS groups is unjust because everyone must have a choice to opt the group of his or her own interest by showing his competence and performance in the exam,” Ali said.
Arslan Maqsood, who has shifted to Lahore from Gujranwala in order to prepare for CSS examination, welcomed the proposed reforms of specialized cadre as he was of the opinion that the reforms would ensure that you get the best man for the job. He told this scribe that candidates with 16 years of education would have a better command of their subject. Arslan was critical of the increase in upper age limit and said that those who could not pass the exam by 28 years of age would find it hard to do it by 30.
Former additional secretary at Establishment Division Kazi Afaq Hossain told Pakistan Today that the specialized cadre in CSS is a landmark decision and an unprecedented reform in the history of civil service. Kazi, who joined the civil services in the 70’s, was of the view that the number of officers in grade 22 would be decreased drastically as it will become extremely difficult for someone to attain the highest grade after starting his service at the age of 30. “The mandatory 16-year education will ensure that well-educated candidates sit in the exam and that is a very positive step,” Kazi commented.
Syed Yasir Usman, who has been teaching CSS aspirants in Lahore for last 8 years, told this scribe that Mphil and PHD students would also be able to take CSS exam after the new reforms. He said that the upper age limit had been 30 years in the past but former president General Parvez Mushharaf had decided to decrease it to 28 because he thought that an army officer attains the grade 17 at very young age and a civil servant must be of the same age at grade 17. “A sort of disparity can emerge between the officers as one can pass the exam at the age of 21 and the other at the age of 30. The government must also decide to increase the lower age limit to remove this disparity,” Yasir maintained.
Mian Shafique, a sitting civil servant of 37th common who also provides coaching to CSS aspirants in his private sessions, told Pakistan Today that the governance would not be improved by these reforms and only the candidates would get the benefits from these developments. “The specialized cadre is the need of hour to change the system of our civil services,” Shafique opined. Shafique, who has a background in science but is working in Audits and Accounts group, was of the view that the upcoming year would see extremely low attendance of candidates in the exam as aspirants would get two more years after the approval of these reforms.
Karimdad Chughtai, who stood second in the CSS exam and is currently undergoing training at the Civil Services Academy, told this scribe that it was a long due decision from the government’s side. He said that candidates hailing from rural areas would benefit most from this initiative because they sometimes start preparing for CSS a bit later than their urban counterparts.