New Pakistan prime minister pledges civil service reform

By on 27/08/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Imran Khan, Pakistan’s new prime minister, has promised civil service reform (Image courtesy: NewAmerica/Flickr-Creative Commons).

Government departments that perform well will be awarded with bonuses, while those that do not will be penalised, Imran Khan, Pakistan’s new prime minister has said.

Khan made the comments in his inaugural speech at the weekend, following the victory of his party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), in the country’s election last month. He has promised to cut spending, including the luxurious lifestyle of the elite.

The party’s manifesto contained several proposals for reform of the civil service, which it said was a priority. The PTI wants the civil service to become a “merit-based, depoliticised cadre of professional”, with officers appointed on merit, rather than political consideration, the manifesto stated.

It noted that the service has seen 38 major reforms in 70 years, but these have not been able to depoliticise the service, or attract talent on merit and technical expertise.

Performance should be audited, and pay and benefits reviewed, it stated. Competent professionals should be allowed lateral entry into the service, and tenures should be protected, it added.

Khan has appointed Ishrat Husain as his adviser on institutional reforms and austerity. Husain was formerly public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, and dean and director of the Institute of Business Administration, the oldest graduate business school in Pakistan.

In 2008, he authored a report on government reform for the National Commission for Government Reforms, which he said in a recent interview with Newsline magazine had “remained in cold storage since 2008, despite the fact that every prime minister felt that inefficiency and corruption impede economic progress”.

Khan said: “If civil service doesn’t execute government’s policies, how are we going to resolve our issues? There was time when our civil service was one of the world’s best. Dr Ishrat Hussain will carry out reforms in civil services. There will be no political interference. We will give you complete respect. The common man needs to be respected by the civil servants.  We will give bonuses to departments which perform well and those who don’t will be penalised.”

Writing in national paper the Express Tribune, Hasaan Khawar, honorary fellow of the Consortium for Development Policy Research, welcomed Khan’s promises of reform, saying that the civil service had long evaded reform, largely owing to political inertia. Most younger civil servants were supportive, and willing to be held accountable for performance in return for tenure security and better salaries, he wrote.

“If there was ever an opportunity to reform bureaucracy in recent history, the time is now. If there was any political party, whose agenda closely resonated with improving governance, it is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and if there was one man who could be trusted to do this job, he is Dr Ishrat Hussain,” he wrote.

About Catherine Early

Catherine is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has held permanent roles at the Environmentalist (now known as Transform), the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and has also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue. She was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism competition 2009, and was part of the team that won PPA Business Magazine of the Year 2011 for Windpower Monthly. She also won an outstanding content award at Haymarket Media Group’s employee awards for data-led stories in Planning magazine. She holds a 2:1 honours degree in English language and literature from Birmingham University.

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