Campaign of PCS officers against DMG’s dominance takes unprecedented turn
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
On March 18, the civil secretariat in Lahore was the venue of an activity never witnessed before. It was around 9 am in the morning. A large number of officers from all nooks and corners of the secretariat and from outside had started gathering near the office of the chief secretary of the province.
What looked like a general assembly or a peaceful congregation listening to a political speech was in fact a protest of PCS officers against the arrest of three of their colleagues hardly an hour ago. These officials had been picked up by police for distributing written material “on the exploitation of PCS officers at the hand of the powerful DMG officers.”
The number swelled to well above 1,000 within no time. The protestors were soon joined by the office-bearers of the PCS Officers’ Association and they disbursed for Friday prayers at 12:15 am: As they headed towards the gates, the same security guards who used to salute them whenever they reached the entrance or exit obstructed their way.
Police personnel present there arrested a large number of PCS officers and filed an FIR against them. The next day all of them were awarded bail by the court despite the demand of the police for their physical remand.
“This was a turning point in our struggle. Those who thought we would be cowed down by such action have seen our resolve get stronger,” says Rai Manzoor Nasir, President PCS Officers Association while talking to TNS. He says the PCS officers sidelined throughout the history of Pakistan have challenged their maltreatment on constitutional ground and will not budge at all.
On main reservations of the service group, he says PCS officers who enter service in BPS 17 through an exam equally competitive as Central Superior Services (CSS) exam remain in the same grade for 20 odd years. On the other hand, he explains, an official inducted in DMG or other federal services group in BPS 17 reaches BPS 20 after completion of 16 or 17 years of service.
Secondly, he says the quota of postings self-assigned by DMG officers in Punjab is totally unconstitutional. It’s an amazing fact that DMG officers who are 700 in number have reserved 700 posts for themselves in Punjab alone, he reveals. “Most of these seats remain vacant due to shortage of DMG officers but not given to PCS officers.” Rai tells TNS that there is an All Pakistan Unified Group (APUG) comprising DMG, Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) and Secretariat.
Another strange practice, he says, is that of posting junior DMG officers on higher posts and making senior PCS officers work under them. He cites the example of Ahad Cheema, DCO Lahore a BPS-18 official holding a BPS-21-post. He shares it with TNS that Cheema has also served as Secretary Higher Education Department, Punjab as a boss of Suhail Masood, Chairman Punjab Text Book Board ‑ a PCS officer in BPS-21.
Historically, there have been different formulas in the past under which provincial posts were shared between federal and provincial officers. In 1954, Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) was created under which the federal officers were given a quota of 28 seats out of 55 in Punjab. In 1973 DMG officers, as PCS officers put it, increased their quota from 28 to 115 through a unilateral amendment in CSP rules. Then finally in 1993, a formula was devised at the forum of Inter-Provincial Committee (IPCC) Islamabad that fixed quota for federal and provincial officers in provinces.
These formulas are unconstitutional as after the promulgation of 1956 Constitution, the one introduced in 1954 became void, says Dr Shoaib Tariq Warraich, General Secretary, PCS Officers’ Association. Therefore, the amendment in the formula made in 1973 is also void due to the same reason, he says adding: “IPCC decisions are also not binding on any one as it’s not a constitutional forum.”
Warraich cites the example of India where the concept of All India Service Group was introduced under their constitution in 1950. Subsequently, an Indian Administrative Services Act was passed under which service rules were drafted duly. In Pakistan, this process was never initiated, he adds.
A senior DMG officer posted in Punjab, who does not want to be named, tells TNS that officers from his group get main postings for the reason they are better trained and more qualified. “Hardly is there any PCS officer who has not appeared in CSS exam. Only those who could not qualify for the former have joined the provincial service.”
He insists the selection is made by the CM Punjab himself who conducts exhaustive interviews of officers to find best men for major posts. The official defends posting of federal officers in provinces on ground it promotes inter-provincial harmony and national cohesion. “If a Sindhi, Baloch, Punjabi or Pathan gets a chance to serve the people of other provinces the provincial biases will be removed.”
Rai Manzoor challenges this assertion saying if DMG officers are so dedicated why don’t they opt for postings in Balochistan? He tells TNS DMG officers have devised a formula for those who agree to serve in Balochistan. “It includes a provision of posting in a grade higher than in which a person is serving, double salary, 4 months’ paid leave in a year and return tickets for family twice a year,” he adds.
Rai tells TNS they challenged the posts’ sharing formula in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on November 16, 2010. Four months down the road, the respondents have failed to even produce copy of 1954 agreement in the court of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. He says the CJP has taken strict notice of this and the court has also sent dozens of reminders to the Establishment Division but it is not replying.
Rai says the facts that all 43 secretaries in Punjab expect two are DMG, all 9 commissioners except one are DMG and all 11 members of Board of Revenue (BoR) except one are DMG is enough to prove their stance.
He clarifies they have called off strike only on assurance that their grievances will be addressed. “If this doesn’t happen we can redefine our strategy.”
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who is the chairman of the committee formed by Punjab CM to look into demands of PCS officers, thinks the strike call was totally uncalled for. He says these officers’ consultations were going on with the government at cabinet committee level but they suddenly went on strike. “It appears some elements are misdirecting law abiding officers for vested interests.”
Sanaullah says the Punjab government will try to solve all genuine problems of PCS officers but disagrees with the claim that posting of junior officers on higher posts is a wrong practice. He says seniority is definitely a criteria but competence, honesty, integrity and efficiency of an officer has to be taken into account as well.
“A competent Grade 18 officer should be given preference over a dull and incompetent work-shirker serving in grade 20,” he says adding the government has lawful authority to take such decisions.
He shares it with TNS that Shahid Niaz, a PCS officer who performed exceptionally well as Deputy District Officer (Food) in wheat procurement drive, was posted as DCO Gujranwala as a reward. Nasim Sadiq, another PCS officer, is working as DCO Faisalabad- in a higher grade.
“I think this is enough to prove that Punjab government is not discriminatory against PCS officers and only values competence,” he concludes.
By Sidra Mahmood
Writing a thesis is a long and laborious process and I am sure many people out there will agree with me that it wasn’t made laborious because of the research that went into it, but the entire thought of making up your mind to do a thesis is what takes its toll on the writers. In Pakistan, half the things are left pending owing to this anathema for doing the work on time, and this disorder is not typical of any one institution; it is more so often found in students and government institutions than anywhere else.
While in school, completing the homework on time is a rare feat; in colleges, presentations and assignments appear to be a waste of time till one doesn’t get the result at the end of the semester, and last but definitely not the least is the thesis that one has to submit before one can lay claim to any post-graduation degree.
At this note, I’ll pay tribute to my friends and class-fellows, those who have either done their M.Phil thesis, are still doing them (like me) or making up their mind to start on it since the deadline is just a few months away. Bravo! It’s almost two years too late since this work was supposed to have finished.
According to my (not-so) scholarly mind, the delay is caused by almost all those factors that have nothing or little to do with research and writing, or to be more precise, the essentially educational requirements. The most important role is played by the supervisor, with due apologies and respect to any who might be reading this piece. A good supervisor is one who makes the student do the work, and a not-so good supervisor sleeps on the thesis for as long as the student likes and then gives up on the student as a lost case. Besides the sleeping bit, this latter kind of supervisor also expects the student to know everything about how to write a thesis, and then also has a famous knack for confusing the student with what exactly is required in the write-up, since what was discussed in the previous meeting becomes automatically obsolete in the next meeting. But no, the entire blame doesn’t lie with the supervisor, probably a quarter of the blame only.
The major chunk of accusations for the delay in writing the thesis can be awarded to the entire world itself for existing with so many attractions, so many good things to do, which are at least better than sitting behind a book for hours on end.
To cap it all, since the thesis has to be typed on the computer with access to internet, who can blame the researcher for switching to Facebook because the added information on world affairs that is available on Facebook is definitely not available in any other book, and the sifting of the precious information done by friends in the ‘news feed’ is priceless. Then being a woman, the seasonal changes in fashion is also so time-consuming, look at the two dozen lawn brands available in the market. It takes a lot of time to pick and choose from among them. And once that’s over, one is so tied up in the social appearances that hardly any time is left to go to the library.
Before I forget to mention, the library (specially the one in Lahore, which, I am sure, all of us know of) is in itself the biggest hurdle in research and writing. From reliable sources, I’ve found out that a single girl is bound to get married in a couple of months to a guy she definitely met in the library. And since, many ‘apparently scholarly’ girls are genuinely not interested in the pseudo-CSS preparing boys’ breed found there; they find themselves bereft of the opportunity to explore the hallowed halls of this famous library. And if they ever get the chance to delve into this Holy of Holies, the books are found to be in tatters with half the pages missing and the other halves illegible.
With such diversions available, who can blame the student for not completing the work on time? And these are just a few that I could enumerate; I still have not listed the problems faced by the married and working women. Life is equally difficult for them or probably more so, since their responsibilities are an add-on to the ones already listed above. This is my apology for not having done the work on time and those who have gone through the same experience as I have and are still subject to it can sympathise with my dilemma.
It’s not that people like me don’t want to do the work, it’s just that the proper motivation is lacking, proper incentives are not given at the appropriate time. For example, my parents took their time to get me a new laptop when I had already forewarned them that I wouldn’t be able to do my work without this oh-so-important accessory.
Now that I have it, there are a few others that I still need...but this time hopefully I’ll rid myself of this shackle of thesis!
* Exhibition: Solo Show by
Tahmina Ahmed at Rohtas Gallery
opening on April 6.
The exhibition will continue
till April 16.
* 7th Anual Exhibition of Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics and Graphic Art by Young Artists 2011
opening today at Alhamra Arts Council,
It will continue till April 25.
* SOFTEC 2011 the sixth international and 15th
All Pakistan event is scheduled to be held at
FAST-NU on 9th-10th April 2011.
* All Pakistan Gypsy Mela at Children Library Complex
on Wed, April 6 from 11:00am-5:00pm.
* Weekly Puppet Show every Sunday at 11:00am at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall.
* Weekend Cycle Ride today at 4:30pm to start from Zakir Tikka,
Sarwar Road, Lahore Cantt.
Sanitary workers are most unprotected both health-wise and otherwise
By Aoun Sahi
Since 15 years, Pervez Masih, 38 year old father of six and a resident of Youhannabad, has been starting his day at 4 in the morning. “Like all sanitary workers in city, I have to be at my workplace by 5 in the morning because residents of the city want to see their streets clean before they get up”. First he sweeps the main road assigned to him then small roads and then streets. Like all other sanitary workers, he lifts heaps of garbage and hazardous solid waste from the metropolis with bare hands as he does not have any gloves, mask or gum boots.
“It is a very tough routine. Many of us catch dangerous diseases like hepatitis, asthma and TB but majority of the people still look down upon us as dirty people,” he says. Their actual duty hours are eight but they have to spend 10-12 hours at workplace. “We have to mark attendance thrice a day; first in office at 5 am, then at union council nazim office at 10am and then again at the assigned work place”.
Masih is one out of about 7,000 sanitary workers, including 3,000 work charge employees employed with Solid Waste Management (SWM) Lahore. Out of them 1500 are women who had to face more problems than their male counterparts. Women workers also have to work in two shifts, which disturb their household life. Their day starts as early as 4 in the morning. The situation for work charge staff is even harder. They have to work on daily wages, with 90 days contract without weekly off or sick leave.
TNS talked to scores of sanitary workers and found that their major issues include no specified duty hours, no provision of safety equipment or on-job training. In 2010 city district government of Lahore conducted tests of 2,000 sanitary workers and found that more than 15 percent were Hepatitis B and C positive. There is no medical cover to even regular employees, no promotion based on seniority, no gazetted holidays, not even May Day holiday and no housing facility for sanitary workers. In case of death the family gets Rs120,000 as death claim which was just Rs 20,000 till 2009. The sanitary workers get Rs100 as medical allowance along with salaries.
Different estimations put the population of Lahore at somewhere around 10 million. The average household size of the city is 7.12 while Lahore currently produces more than 4,500 tonnes of waste daily. According to international standards one sanitary worker is required for a population of 500, it means there should be at least 20, 000 sanitary workers for the fast growing city of Lahore. While there are only 7,000 sanitary workers in the city at present. The overwhelming majority of sanitary workers though are Christians but at present there are more than 1500 Muslims working as sanitary workers. They are basically political recruits therefore workers have many complaints.
There are about 1500 regular and 400 work charge sewer men in Lahore for 150 union councils, that gives 12 workers to each union council. Around 100 Muslims are also working as sewer men. In 1988, a sewer man died of poisonous gas while performing his job and so far more than 70 workers have been killed by deadly sewer gases. “No action has ever been taken against any official despite clear cut instructions that no sewer man should descend into the sewer without taking appropriate safety measures,” says Younis Alam, Executive Director Minority Rights Commission. His organisation has been working on the issues of sanitary workers since long and in 2008 it issued a report ‘Working conditions of sanitary workers and sewer men in Lahore’.
The report found that around 90 percent of the sanitary workers interviewed were suffering from TB, Asthma or other respiratory system related diseases. “In spite of the fact that sanitary workers perform their duties in quite unhygienic condition they are not provided with health cover. No reliable data is available with any government department regarding types of risks and diseases affecting sanitary workers, sewer men and their families. None of the respondents replied positive to vaccination against deadly diseases. They were never vaccinated against tetanus and hepatitis,” reads the report.
Alam says that the tools provided to the sweepers are of poor design and quality. The sweepers use short brooms for sweeping and wheel barrows for collecting the sweepings. They create small or large heaps on the side of streets which are then collected by tractor trolleys or small trucks. “In some areas of the city mechanical sweepers are under use to clean main roads of the city but around 90 percent of the sweeping is done manually. The waste is also picked up from the ground manually with the help of rakes and baskets in most part of the city,” he says.
Government officials are well aware of the situation. “It is true that government does not provide any safety equipment to sanitary workers and they also come to duty on odd hours. They have been facing serious health issues as well and we have been unable so far to vaccinate them or provide them health insurance but we are trying to do it this year,” says Waseem Ajmal Chaudhry, managing director SWM.
Interestingly, government of Pakistan made commitment during 2008 South Asia Sanitation Conference (SACOSAN) held in Delhi to take specific actions to improve the working conditions of sanitary workers but has not taken even a single step or evolved any strategy to improve the conditions of the sanitary workers. “Federal government never directed us or helped financially to work on the betterment of these workers,” says Chaudhry.
At the Lahore railway station, there are many points from where people can enter the platforms, flouting the ban on platform tickets
By Arshad Shafiq
“My mother and grandmother are going to Karachi. They are too old to get on a train on their own with this heavy luggage. I want to help them sit on their seats in the train. Please let me go with them to the platform,” wrangles a youth with a railway official standing at the gate of platform 2.
“Don’t you know Pakistan Railways has banned entry to the platform except for the one who has a train ticket? It has closed platform ticket counter in the wake of terrorist activities in the country,” the official wearing a badge with his name and designation as TCR Mukhtar Ahmad replied to the youth.
An exchange of hot words between the travellers and the railway officials over the platform ban is not an unusual happening at the station concourse. People who come to see the travellers off at the station insist on entering the platform to give them company for as long as the train is there. On the other hand railway officials do not allow them to step on the platform which sometimes results in a brawl, says Head Train Inspector (HTI) Subhani while talking to TNS.
A senior railway official tells TNS on condition of anonymity that the main purpose to ban entry on platform was to ensure security and reduce rush of people there but this did not work as people enter platforms after buying a train ticket of Rs25. If a common man can enter platform after spending Rs25, why not a saboteur? There are so many points from where you can enter the station and people frequently use these points. Vendors, hawkers and beggars can be seen inside the station.
“Had the ban been effective, they wouldn’t have been there. I raised this issue in the higher quarters of the Pakistan Railways (PR) but to no avail. With this ban, PR is losing Rs30,000 to Rs35,000 income daily which it earned from selling platform tickets. So this ban is a stupidity and an anti-people step which not only causes financial loss to the railway, but also irritates passengers and their relatives. Superintendent Trains (STs) are making money by selling used tickets to those who want to enter platforms with the passengers,” the railway official says.
That businesses on the platform have suffered, goes without saying. Coolies’ rates have gone up certainly because their importance has increased in the absence of relatives and friends accompanying passengers to the bogey.
Lahore Railway Station Manager Ahmad Din explains how the ban came into effect. People’s entry to railway platforms was banned following the railway police directions and it cannot be withdrawn without their approval. “The closure of platform ticket counters is causing loss of millions of rupees to Pakistan Railways annually. I talked to my GM many a time for reopening the platform counters and he really wants to for public convenience but for this we are waiting for green signal from railway police. Security is important. The ban on platform ticket has certainly reduced the rush of people at railway stations.”
The whole railway station from Badami Bagh to Lahore Cantt is unguarded as you don’t see any policeman or guard along railway tracks. The railway administration sees all the security problems at platforms. The Pakistan Railways trains usually depart or arrive late, in both cases passengers and their relatives who come to see them off or receive them suffer as they have to wait outside the platforms at the station concourse where there are hardly any sitting arrangements.
The prime object of closing platforms for non-travellers is to provide people with stringent security, but this move does not seem effective as people manage to enter platforms one way or the other. So, there is a need to look into other areas to remove security lapses instead of barring people from entering platforms.