- And why bureaucrats must run with the hare and hunt with the hound
Time changes everything. But, when you are a bureaucrat in a land that is yet to shed its colonial baggage, time makes you king of all you survey one moment; the next even your best friends shy away from you.
Fawad Hasan Fawad in Islamabad and Ahad Khan Cheema in Lahore were de facto Prime Minister and Chief Minister respectively. Both are behind bars now, a fate not much different from their masters.
They are intelligent, hardworking, accomplished, diligent, risk taking, boss pleasing geniuses whose rise reminds one of meteors and whose fall resembles that of rusty scarecrows. Ahad Khan Cheema and Fawad Hasan Fawad were two ace bureaucrats who ran the roost for the greater good of themselves and their masters. They were all of the above and more. They are Dr. Faustus whose time has come. They are Yossarian condemned to Catch-22. They are Achilles’ whose heel has been hit. They are Greek demigods demoted to mere, pitiable mortals. They were proud, mighty heroes everyone adored, now they’ve become Richard III whose final words were ‘A horse, a horse! My Kingdom for a horse’.
The candidates from rural backgrounds with their more stamina to sit-and-study for long hours compete against those from urban centres having advantage of better schooling, sharpened analytical skills and more facilities
There aren’t any horses available. The Kingdom they served is gone. The House they protected is imperiled. Their carefully built and jealously guarded careers are in the gutter. Their fellows are slowly but certainly distancing themselves from their colleagues.
The party is over. And nobody wants to attend the after-party with the lads who have been ‘NABbed’, pun intended.
In our land, as many say, the more things change the more they remain the same. I’ve written in the same pages few months back that gone are the days when babus were of Sikandar Mirza, Governor Ghulam Muhammad or Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s stature who had the rise and fall of politicians in their fists. The past babu masters, after taking a lot of beatings from the powers that be are now reduced to the status of handmaidens available to do the dirty work in return of prized postings, rampant promotions and a direct line to the man on top.
Despite all of the above who wants to be a bureaucrat? Well, who doesn’t? In our fatherland, power, prestige, status, and privilege are bundled together in one handsome package: Bureaucracy.
No wonder then the bureaucracy in our land of the free and pure is one of the most reviled and condemned institutions. Coming second only to politicians, the masses hold bureaucrats responsible for things ranging from bad governance, shattered roads and infrastructure to absence of water in their taps. The bureaucrats, however, are of the view that they are more sinned against than sinning. They believe they are mere tools and cogs in a machine that is headed by political strongman, tempered by elusive powers-that-be, inundated with shortages of funds and manpower, and hammered into pulp by an over-enthusiastic media.
In this background when the Ahad Khan Cheema episode unfolded, the arrest of Fawad Hasan Fawad was only a matter of time. Both Ahad Khan Cheema and Fawad Hasan Fawad are the product of one of Pakistan’s most meritorious exam; CSS; a free-for-all battle of nerves where the scions of wealthy families are pitted against hardworking sons and daughters of middle and lower-middle class. The candidates from rural backgrounds with their more stamina to sit-and-study for long hours compete against those from urban centres having advantage of better schooling, sharpened analytical skills and more facilities.
Now, dear reader, all the mighty and influential bureaucrats are all of a sudden threatened with a stick they were never accustomed to. For them the arrest of the most pivotal two has ominous signs. They stood together, and now with two dominos down, it seems like only a matter of time that it’ll be their turn to face the music. Now, they’ve come across a similar existential crisis that marks human existence: Now that they’ve dared to overreach and did things, made decisions and helped in deeds now put under scrutiny and totally above their pay grades what lies in the offing for the most secured ones?
Dr. Ishaq Hussain in one of his essays ‘Retooling Institutions’ in an anthology titled ‘Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State’ has lamented that since Bhutto’s era the civil services have become a reservoir of those who seek social mobility through the stature and promise of office. Also, he quotes a study done by International Crisis Group that observed that ‘decades of mismanagement, political manipulation and corruption have rendered Pakistan’s Civil Service incapable of providing effective governance and basic public services. In public perception the country’s 2.4 million civil servants are widely seen as unresponsive and corrupt, and their bureaucratic procedures cumbersome and exploitative’.
Until we fail to incentivize power, we’ll be reigned on by an abundance of Cheemas and Fawads. As even the best minds are available to serve the pittiest of causes.
We won’t be running out of ‘the intelligent, hardworking, accomplished, diligent, risk taking, boss pleasing geniuses anytime soon.