No provincial autonomy sans autonomy in services: HRCP

Lahore, July 13: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has asked the government to consider legitimate demands of Provincial Civil Services (PCS) officers and emphasized that provincial autonomy cannot be realized without ensuring effective autonomy in services.

In a statement issued on Monday, HRCP said: “PCS officers across Pakistan have long been agitating that prospects of the two civil services—central and provincial—are hugely skewed in favour of District Management Group (DMG) officers. Many of the points they raise deserve serious consideration.

Disparities between the two services in prerequisites for promotion, as well as in privileges, such as housing, are glaring. PCS officers recruited in Grade 17 have to wait for 16 to 20 years for promotion to the next grade, while DMG officers recruited in the same grade are promoted to Grade 18 in five years. While there is no requirement for Grade 17 DMG officers to undergo training to qualify for promotion, PCS officers have to fulfill the condition of mandatory training for promotion from Grade 17 to 18. Training has still not been imparted to the 1996 batch of PCS officers of grade 17 from Punjab. It is difficult to understand the rationale for not arranging the required training for PCS for decades. Such inordinate delays have given credence to the belief that trainings are deliberately not arranged so as to keep the PCS officers from fulfilling the eligibility criterion for promotion. Similarly, though PCS officers have largely the same exposure and functions, their share of foreign scholarships, trainings and visits is miniscule.

DMG officers with around five years of service are routinely given important assignments where senior PCS officers with working experience of over 20 years are made to serve under them. In many districts, Grade 19 PCS officers are serving under Grade 18 DMG district coordination officers (DCOs). The number of DMG officers on other important posts is also disproportionately high. In the province of Punjab alone, 37 of the 42 secretaries are from the DMG cadre, and not a single one from among PCS officers.

PCS officers blame a formula mentioned in the unsigned minutes of the Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee in 1993 for overriding the seat-sharing arrangement between federal and provincial services provided under the rules.

HRCP’s concerns not only include unfair treatment but also that provincial autonomy cannot be realized without effective administrative autonomy. Continued appointments of officers from federal services to key decision-making slots in the provinces in large numbers hardly demonstrates commitment to principles of provincial autonomy. The government must urgently revisit the scheme of things to ensure that provinces get a greater say in internal decision-making in line with the move for greater autonomy and devolution of power to the provinces. ”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson
 

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