EDITORIAL: Officers on contract - Saturday, January 29, 2011

Source : www.dailytimes.com

An eight-member bench of the Supreme Court has upheld merit by giving instruction to the government to review re-employment of retired officers on contract basis at various top positions. The court observed that such appointments are tantamount to blocking the promotion of other officers waiting for their turns, and had been made, prima facie, in violations of Civil Servants Act 1973, Civil Establishment Code (Estacode) and various judgements of the Supreme Court on this subject. Although rehiring of retired officers has not been ruled out in the Civil Servants Act 1973, which states, “A retired civil servant shall not be re-employed under the federal government, unless such re-employment is necessary in the public interest,” in most instances the prescribed procedure is not adhered to, thus violating merit. Estacode states, “It has been noticed with concern that contract appointments were made in the past indiscriminately without proper examination of the need thereof and without ensuring observance of the principle of open merit, and equality of opportunity” and goes on to lay down detailed conditions and procedures in making such appointments. It is common knowledge that with every new government there comes a barrage of new appointments, most made at the discretions of respective chief executives, and sometimes in violation of these procedures to the presence of their cronies on key positions. The case of the present government is no different.

Unfortunately, the practice of re-hiring retired officers is not confined to civil service only. Extension in service and appointments of retired personnel on ad hoc basis are a common practice in all institutions of the state. It is justifiable in some cases but in most instances this is done for expedient reasons. This, in part, explains why the standard of various services has fallen over the decades. Young officers have come to believe that political contacts rather than good performance will secure them coveted posts, even after retirement, while those who work hard but do not pander to the whims of their political bosses, keep languishing in insignificant positions. Therefore, they pay more attention to their personal contacts rather than working on merit. In many cases, officers in junior cadres wait for years to be promoted to the next grade, and sometimes retire before reaching the pinnacle of their careers because top positions are blocked by political appointees. This breeds resentments and affects the performance of junior officers. There is a need to eliminate this culture from all institutions of the state. It is hoped that the apex court will not only ensure that the government adheres to the law and principle of merit, but implement these same principles while making appointments within the judiciary.

The Supreme Court also directed the federal and provincial governments to ensure minimum salary of Rs 7,000 in all state and private institutions of the country. This is a welcome step. Various labour policies have been announced in Pakistan during the past 63 years, ensuring workers their rights to reasonable wages and better working conditions. Despite these labour policies, issues like minimum wages, working hours, etc, remain neglected by the government and industry owners. It is an open secret that many industries are paying much less to their workers in wages as well as overtime. It is high time that the government puts its foot down and ensures that our workers get their due rights. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Justice without prejudice

On Thursday, Raymond Davis, an employee of the US Consulate in Lahore was involved in a shootout that resulted in the deaths of two Pakistani citizens, while a third was crushed to death by a jeep that came to his aid. According to police sources, Mr Davis tried to flee the scene but two traffic wardens intervened and escorted him to a nearby police station. A case for murder was registered against Mr Davis. On Friday Mr Davis was presented in court, where he said he was being robbed and only acted in self-defence. The court, after hearing initial arguments, ordered a six-day physical remand of the accused.

The police and the court have a tough task at hand. The facts of this case are conflicting. According to the victims’ families, the victims were unarmed and the weapons found on them were planted after they had been killed. However, some media sources claim that these two individuals were involved in street crime. Two of the cell phones found on them were reported stolen earlier — one belonging to an army officer and the other to a female resident of Lahore. If true, then Mr Davis might be right in his assertion that these men were following him and were in fact trying to rob him at gunpoint. Lahore and most major cities in Pakistan have seen an exponential increase in street crimes such as mobile snatching, motorbike and car theft, robberies and kidnappings for ransom. The court will have to find answers to whether Mr Davis in fact acted in self-defence. If so, did he use the right amount of force or was it excessive? The federal government has been quiet on the matter. However, the Punjab government has rightly spoken about the rule of law. But major media organisations, religious and political parties have played to the masses in an attempt to gain popularity. Chief Minister (CM) Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, has said that the life of Pakistanis is not cheap. It is not a matter of how ‘cheap’ Pakistani lives are but rather pertaining to a murder case and its circumstances.

Given that Pakistan is rife with anti-American sentiment, this incident, unless dealt with objectively, will only make matters worse. However, it will impact the functioning of US diplomats in Pakistan. Diplomatic security in general must be questioned, particularly due to our precarious law and order situation in the light of the war on terror. But above all else, the police and the court must be allowed to carry out their work without prejudice.

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