The CSS question

The CSS question

As the final result for the Central Superior Services (CSS) examination came through this week, a few questions came to mind:

Can the bureaucrats act like civil servants? Do they think that when Pakistan is being considered the 5th most unstable country in the world, do they want to help change things?

Why aren’t the top notch universities graduates adopting this field as their careers anymore? How can nepotism and corruption be eradicated from bureaucracy so that postings and promotions are done on merit basis?

Would a raise in salaries of government officials announced in the recent budget impact positively on the working conditions? Were the Mayors performing better than today’s administrators (the bureaucrats)?

Text by Jawad Muzaffar.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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151 Responses to “The CSS question”

  1. Shamaila Tehmasip says:

    The basic reason of our annoyance to bureaucracy is that consciously or unconsciously we always compare bureaucracy/bureaucrats with leadership/leaders. Bureaucracy should not be compared with leadership. Bureaucrats are public sector employees working for a government department or agency. They are just in system to execute the decisions made by judiciary or parliament. Bureaucracy is directly responsible to the leadership that creates it, such as a government executive.

    It is worth noting that our bureaucracy (despite limitations and failures) has been performing the task of ensuring continuity in policies. Secondly, despite frequent and sometimes sudden changes of governments Pakistani bureaucracy continues to manifest considerable “staying power” notwithstanding the charges of corruption and inefficiency.
    Pakistani bureaucracy must be changed and restructured from within. This would be accomplished by adopting the following strategy.

    1. To restructure public organisations to redefine their purpose.
    2. Enhance accountability.
    3. Provide incentives.
    4. Re-organise distribution of power, and most importantly.
    5. Change their culture.

    Following is some information for those who think that bureaucrats always come from elite classes.

    A substantial number joining the Civil Services hail from the urban middle classes. The Common Training Programme (CTP) data indicates that from the 1st CTP to 22nd CTP (1973-1995) a total of 3,374 officers joined the twelve federal services of Pakistan. Among these, the most prominent are the children of the government servants (900) (i.e. sons/daughters of a clerk to a high ranking officer) the second largest group is that of the offsprings of professionals (515) (Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers), followed by Agriculturalist/landlords (514) and businessmen (406). The number of children of the Civil Servants (i.e. CSS Officers) is (167) and that of Defence Forces Officers (165).

    Beside these other social and occupational groups in the society are also adequately represented in the higher civil services . These groups, collectively constitute about 10 percent of the total CSS services. It is a myth that civil servants and their pro-genies have a monopoly in the services. The children of the government servants, professionals, business groups, agriculturists/landlords, civil servants and defence officers have better access to education they take and qualify the examination in larger numbers, therefore their dominance is visible. It is again understandable that as compared to other social groups, since these groups are more knowledgeable about patterns of authority and status associated with various groups (i.e. DMG, Police, Customs, Income Tax), therefore in identifying their service/group preference they are better informed at the time of going through the CSS examination process.

    Occasionally it does happen that despite attaining higher merit in the examination, a candidate ends up in a service that does not correspond with his/her merit position. This happens because of lack of information about the rankings of various service/groups in the structure of the government. In this sense the sons/daughters of civil servants have a definite advantage; they chose and join services and groups that enjoy power, authority and elite status. Therefore upon joining the service, despite being smaller in number they are more visible. This happens because of two reasons. First, their parents may have held prominent appointment as civil servants. Second, in our society where status is determined by lineage, achievement is down played. This is newsworthy and promotes a public image that parental connections compromised merit.

    It is equally important to note that each year 1 to 5 cases of children of the under privileged class (a daily wage labourer, taxi driver, a peasant, petty clerk, shop keeper) have on the basis of competition, hard work and ability to excel entered the service lending legitimacy and credibility to the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) examination process.

  2. Amir says:

    The society in which majority of people (public servants) do not feel guilty in doing wrong things then what you expect in that society. The people are opting these professions only to mint money and be in the advantageous class.

    I tell them the day is not far away when they will be thrown out in the streets.

    These all my friends know history, so they must learn lesson from history.
    God bless Pakistan.

  3. S.T says:

    Basic problem is the de-individuation. No one is willing to step forward and try to bring a change… All are moving around on same stream of lines…

  4. S.T says:

    Bureaucrats think that since the country is already unstable..Why they have to waste their energies in reforming…the main problem is the de-individuation…no one is willing to take any daring step by themselves.

  5. Siraj Ahsan says:

    Adopting to CSS is road to professional degradation… corruption of the soul. I had intended but opted against it and am happy. If the CSS had in the past the top brains who worked for the good of the country we wouldnt be in such a mess!

  6. S. Nasir Mehdi says:

    I agree with Amir . Check the examination results of past 15 years you will find success connected with a top source/father-mother-sister-brother. No harm in checking or pass on this question to any TV Anchor who will dig out results.

  7. nadeem javed says:

    It would be little unfair to blame the bureaucracy alone for all the ills in society/social system. I think to get best out of these Central Superior Services personnel we need to reform the system. Consider this that these very Pakistanis, having moved abroad perform miracles like Sartaj Aziz, Shaukat Tareen and many more but having returned to their own country they fail to deliver.
    Now the question is how to improve the system? I think, we all in general and our political hierarchy in particular is responsible. These so called representatives of public, have host of thing in their mind once they reach the echelons of power. Money, Property, Ingress to the public for next elections. With least qualifications, not even bachelors) they remain solely dependent on bureaucracy thus involving them into the corruption too. For improvement of system i expect nothing from the political leadership which is un educated and incompetent. So we have to wait and see, when people realize that the system needs to be improved through selection of competent people as their representatives in national and provincial assemblies.

  8. A.Bajwa says:

    Civil and military bureaucracies are intended to run empires. Pakistan inherited this outfit and thought they could use them for nation building. Not surprising that it didn’t work. It was like using communist cadres to develop a capitalist system.

    Pakistan should move towards a smaller but technical bureaucracy. You just have to remove the post of secretary like S.Korea has done and have technocrats as vice ministers.

    Bureaucrats should be recruited on the basis of aptitude and knowledge of management, accountancy, administrative law and public policy. To recruit graduates in all and sundry subjects and then to train them in these disciplines is waste of time and money, and counter productive.

  9. Ahsan Ali says:

    This is the century of technology. Engineers and doctors etc etc are needed in civil services but the brighter ones of them are needed in research and development to come up with new ideas and products that can be sold in international market. Before the lots of Zia era schooled people started taking places in CSS, there were enough talented officers but they couldn’t make much difference. All they did was to maintain status quo and support their political masters. Civil services need average minded people (honest though) and let is it be for the average minded people. The tragedy is that at the policy level these average minded bureaucrats (thinking of themselves no lesser than Einstein just because they passed an exam some 30 years ago) take the lead. Brighter minds are needed at their place to formulate future policy.
    It is time that we change our society to a technologically oriented and rational one. Please bear in mind that having cell phone and internet doesn’t change a society into a technology oriented society.

  10. shahid khichi says:

    I am a member of district judiciary Punjab. Our civil service has a key role in running state affairs but unluckily it is considered as suffering from corruption and malpractices. The general perception regarding bureaucracy is not of public service rather it is public rule. The civil servants in Pakistan are considered as power seekers and power misusers this perception has shaken public confidence over the institution of bureaucracy. Actually our laws which have not been amended since British imperialism are the main cause which have centralized and concentrated powers in one office or office bearer.there is an urgent need to decentralize the powers and authorities vested in one quarter.

  11. Indira says:

    Interesting perspective in such a small piece.

    Indian Administrative Service (IAS) has always been a place to join for power and prestige. While the IAS offices start out good and are from the best pool of students, they interact with politicians and that nexus…

    The cream of the crop would aspire to join the IAS and other government services such as IFS (Indian Foreign Service), IPS (Indian Police Service)…But today, the lure of the private sector in the booming urban economy is too strong and these services are beginning to lose their luster.

    The author writes “How can nepotism and corruption be eradicated from bureaucracy so that postings and promotions are done on merit basis?” – as much as one would hate to acknowledge, these are cultural traits as a action to socio-economic conditions and not prevalent only in Pakistan. Better education, growth and development, less corruption, less nepotism… are dependent on good administration and thus this is chick-or-egg type of a problem.

    The possibility of eradication or reduction of corruption and neptoism through laws, rules and formal vigilance is rather limited (but I acknowledge that these are necessary). Such issues generally get addressed as newer generations move in with better exposure, fresher ideas/ideals and aspirations in a environment that encourages growth and development.

    Most developed and relatively less corrupt nations of today have had much higher level of corruption and nepotism centuries ago. But with growth and development achieved over multitudes of generations in education, health, access to service, ability to exercise ones rights, job mobility… elevate a nation/people to a less corrupt society.

    So the right questions should be “Where is the focus of the nation/people today? And will that beget future generations who will develop, sustain and if necessary rebuild better institutions?”

  12. Muhammad jehangir khan says:

    Salam Pakistan,
    I read the view of different brothers, who give different opinion and different suggestion. I simply want to say that we impose the CSS examination from start of Pakistan, how much we get merits and how much we get demerits. I thing for example one man graduation is political science and he attempt CSS and lucky he qualify CSS exam and interview and willingly he join the field of accounts and become account officer, similarly the one MBBS student qualify and become ASP, so here my question that either the political science student suitable for the account post and the MBBS student suitable for ASP post and how much benefits they can provide to country, their decisions are effective for the people of Pakistan, I think no absolutely no, because they not familiar from actual field because there field are totally different from actual and after clear CSS now they are not at the position to study more and to gain more information because he tiered from study more and now at this post he want luxury not to deeply serve their services for humanity, ofcourse some one very hard worker and try to do best but unfortunately the number of such people too short. I don’t understand why we not select the right people for right post and because of this our whole system is going wrong because we not bring right people for the right place. My plea my request to our govt specially that please take effective decision on this regard because our whole system is going on wrong track and terribly effect the whole nation. please bring qualified field professional for suitable field related post. because we seriously need to worry about this system, think about the system that how to improve it, and deeply love to this land.
    love to Pakistan

    • S. Nasir Mehdi says:

      I endorse views of Mr. Mohammad Jahangir Khan. I had been seeing the results of CSS examination in the past. I was interested because once I was also a candidate to become a CSS. Will any one go through the list of candidates who pass CSS examination. It is easy to trace the history of such candidates who are either sons or brothers ( including daughters and sisters) or near relation of serving senior bureaucrat. That is why students have lost interest to spend money and time to appear in CSS examination because the history proves that it is for those who have relationship with top notch.

      • Muhammad Akram says:

        Its absolutely wrong to say that, who qualify CSS exam are relatives of bureaucrats, I my self hail a hand to mouth family. with the grace of God I have qualified this prestigious exam. one of my friends, who once used to sell newspaper has also passed the exam. Please if you can’t work hard and bear the heat of merit, don’t cry needlessly.

        Moreover, FPSC is the only public independent recruiting agency that is absolutely fair and hope for poorest of Pakistanis.

        • Sindhyar says:

          M Akram,
          Good to hear such optimist words. It is heartening to know that field is open for all. But I do endorse the view of Muhammad Jehangir khan in relation to the CSS exam not being for purpose. Its one size fits all. If they want people from top universities, than they must place requirements that these people from top universities have acquired. What good does knowing Fourteen Points by Quaid do to a custom’s officer? When will an ASP use a Keat’s couplet? Its bizarre! Of course we should know literature and history, but in our formation years – so as we are inspired to read it more as leisure.

          Similarly you have to make a decision, CSS or anything else. People have to stop their lives for this exam; well in that case you only get really ambitious people.
          In relation to if there can be ever a change, it is possible. I think most of them live in denial, they either think they have ‘earned’ this right or its part of the job. People need to decide themselves if they want to make an honest living or not. Public pressure can help, after all in a democracy it is the responsibility of the people to choose what sort of government they want – only sheep wait for direction from the Sheppard.

        • Ali says:

          I completely agree, its a lame excuse of those who cannot pass the exam!

  13. Muhammad Ali says:

    It is believed that it is not possible to earn HALAL money in bureaucracy. I believe it is the individual itself that decide whether to earn white money or black. Look if you want to help someone you cannot do so unless you himself has power. It is only because of CSS no one else can give you the same prestige. You have to decide yourself either you want to support others or you will also behave like all other bureaucratizes.

    • huz0332 says:

      That’s nice to see you here.. and in this way it is more authentically eminent how the young generation and a new tide are aware of this socially immature bureaucracy…

    • Anam says:

      i so agree with you ! right on .

  14. Ahmed Alam says:

    No doubt the objective of CSS is to extract the cream of country’s young graduates. However, what our country needs right now are not administrators but technocrats to help get the country out from clutches of core problems. The system has failed because of corruption and nepotism.

    It is because of CSS that our country is not being played by politicians fully. Bureaucracy hinders politicians accomplish their devilish goals. Attraction behind CSS is mainly a luxurious and charming life which however is not reality at such stage as the country is being counted in ‘under developed’ world and 5th unstable state.

  15. Osman says:

    YES! the bureaucrats definitely want a stable Pakistan! That is because if there is no stable Pakistan then the money and all the stuff they looted from the country would be greatly devalued! Hence a stable Pakistan is in their best interest!

  16. Anam says:

    Someone mentioned in the statements above that nearly all the CSPs are atheists. ah! are you serious? so all the people who are corrupt are atheists now, and the people who claim to be believers of God .. what do they do? that means everyone is Pakistan is a atheist – on the second hand, no field in Pakistan is ” pure”, so it does not matter where you end up, you will be faced with moral dilemma. I am a student doing Honours in Political Science and want to come back to Pakistan and try giving CSS exams. I too belong to a influential family, but then again who knows what happens. The thing is if we have strong moral codes in ourselves then no matter what happens, one wont change. But I think people lack that, and then they blame the system. When one is stuck in a storm – it depends on what you do – either you give up and die, or you fight till your last breath. So please I would appreciate if people stop going nuts over how bad CSS is. Considering the fact that we are 5th most unstable country in the world. That means something is wrong with the people. We need to change, and keep taking steps to improve the system. When one becomes the officer after giving CSS, YOU decide what to do. So gear up your morals and Emaan as Mr Naeem Javaid has said, and then see where you stand infront of the system.

  17. Shahzwb says:

    Dear Sir,
    I have passed CSS years ago and quit it after a while mainly due to haughtiness and corruption of the upper echelons of bureaucracy. I am so happy and proud in my field now…albeit I am an overseas Pakistani at the moment. I 100% agree with one of the writer that in Pakistan Every Honest person is either too chicken heart or just never got an opportunity to get bribes. Thanks

  18. shariq says:

    I think, CSS is totally “DHONG”……..the selectivity of peoples are pre-written.

  19. A CSS Aspirant says:

    Good governance & Rule of law are considered to be the best prescriptions for healthy and prospering social, economic and political structure of any country. relevance of the CSS question is very important for good governance and rule of law in Pakistan.

    Considering the importance of this topic I have tried to answer questions of Mr. Jawad Muzaffar objectively expecting that they will bring further suggestions, comments and positive criticism on “The CSS question “.

    Q1.Can the bureaucrats act like civil servants? Do they think that when Pakistan is being considered t he 5th most unstable country in the world, do they want to help change things?
    Ans. I must say “most of bureaucrats not act like civil Servants”. Majority of bureaucrats do not want a change in things, The Present style of Governance with many loose falls have benefited them lot. They have remained Rulers of Pakistan in real sense with nexus of Military bureaucracy. There are a few bureaucrats who really want to change the system of Governance from being corrupt, inefficient and pro elite to corruption -free, efficient and pro -poor. but, it is not an task to change the system when society as a whole favors nepotism , corruption and elitism.

    Q2.Why aren’t the top notch universities graduates adopting this field as their careers anymore?
    Ans. The top notch universities graduates are not adopting this field as careers due to two reasons :
    Firstly, we are facing a big problem of “Brain Drain “. Most of people prefer to go abroad and serve other countries rather than Pakistan. We preach too much patriotism but practice a little.
    Secondly, those who do not find their place abroad prefer to join Private organization due to better salaries and other benefits there.

    Q3. How can nepotism and corruption be eradicated from bureaucracy so that postings and promotions are done on merit basis?
    Ans. Nepotism and corruption be eradicated from bureaucracy by:
    – Strictly following the rules and laws
    – Not using bureaucracy for political gains e.g transfer and postings should be an administrative matter not a matter of choice of our members of parliament, ministers etc .
    – Increasing Salaries of Civil Servants and facilitating them to obtain loans at minimum interest rates for construction their own houses and for education of their children etc .
    – Proper checking of their income sources and their life style through modern computer systems.
    – making it obligatory for every civil servant to declare his and his spouce or children’s assets on end of every financial year
    – promoting them on their Performance in their respective fields and on achieving assigned targets to them ; not on their loyalty or affiliation to any person or political group .

  20. imran says:


    I m not a regular visitor of this page but i do visit randomly, i appreciate all ppl who contributed their comments, but i liked the comments of Mr.Waseem that “every one is honest in Pakistan who has never got the opportunity of bribe” in this one line we have answers of our 99% problems we need to see inside ourselves and we only need to correct ourselves if we can do it then we are the part of change and thats what we required now this is the high time to stand united and rise otherwise we will remain as we are since 14 Aug 1947 but remember we have that spirit and we will do it one day ” INSHALLAH”


    • Ejaz Ahmed says:

      I agree with you Imran. Charity begins at home. If we do not change ourselves, we cannot change other people. That is an open truth. If we decide now that we will not adopt any unfair means to achieve our goal, I am 100% confident we will change the society at once. May Allah guide all of us towards the straight path. Ameen

      • Sahar says:

        I agree with of you. we are the people who are suppose to bring the change… but this is not an easy journey when you are just a very small part of this mechanism. I know people in civil services and have badly suffered due to their honesty toward country… frequent transfers as punishments and suspending them, life threat to you and your family…

        This all needs a heart of iron. it truly require a lot of courage…. I have given CSS recently waiting for result and was supposed to appear in ministry of defence post of test held yesterday. but backed off because of above mentioned reasons,,,

        but still have a passion to bring the change some how…

  21. Faisal says:

    How can a bureaucrat serve country when he become in-accessible for a common man, they even cannot talk to him because the person sitting outside your office cannot let the poor man in, “Sahab busy hei”, this is the fate of the common man here, bureaucrat is just not the personality, its a feeling, an attitude.

  22. Talha Ejaz says:

    CSS is considered a short-cut when we compare the people who we refer to as specialist in their fields; we find out that normal graduates turn out to be bureaucrats who from the first day are clear that they won’t be able to have a so-called social status until they have a certain amount of money etc. or power hungry people most of the time turn-up for CSS. Very few think of joining the civil ranks for the betterment of the country and those who join with this intention soon realize that they can’t change anything so when you can’t defeat the enemy, join their ranks. Criteria should be reshaped and people who are specialist in their fields should be given charge of these posts so they can being a positive change in the society.

  23. beenish. says:

    Every one talking about their own experiences. But what could we do with that who studied all at home. and want join CSS. and pass it. but how because me know me couldnt reach that standards.

  24. zee says:

    Why should I join(corrupt) civil servants? What benefit I will get unless I resort to unfair means? After studying in somewhat disciplined environment , I can not keep up my life with a messy job. I am going to complete my 18 years education from a top notch private university(situated in Lahore) of Pakistan. Many of my friends have started to earn 35k ‘starting’ salary and future prospect is bright. Those with more than 2 to 3 years experience are 50k+ and in 6 figures also. I know someone can earn in millions by using unfair means in civil servant but we can move abroad. Please don’t lecture me to join civil servant. I know a few students who got eye-glasses but did’nt get a civil servant job. Anyone remebers an experience of a civil servant daughter published a few weeks ago in the Dawn? She tried this exam and could not succeed. She was not happy about her fathers’ life as a civil servant.

    • Ahsan Ali says:

      most probably LUMS? Why are you making a comparison based solely on money? i.e, money earned in civil service (fair/unfair) vs money earned abroad or in corporations? Isn’t there anything else taught at ‘top notch private’ Univs?

    • zuhaib says:

      I read your comments which was like a paragraph. I want to ask some Qs.
      1st. do you measure yourself with money, that my friends are earning 30, 40, thousands per month or more.
      2nd. do you think, being a citizen of any country where you have studied, lived, grown, but when the question arise for doing something for country, this statement on every ones mouth, I m going foreign, where I can get alot of money. I m asking you who will correct the situation if brain like you will serve foreign.

  25. Abdul Ghaffar Nizamani says:

    A country like Pakistan where feudals, capitalists and bureaucrats are supporting each other to control the lot of masses,where in the name of democracy these elements humiliating humanity;in such an environment CSS is a nursery to breed corrupt bureaucrats who serve their inept lords. I personally feel that in a society like ours where few people have access to a lot and the majority don’t the access to basic needs; there you cannot produce good bureaucrats through a single exam. Many lower middle class opt for CSS as to get a department of their choice where they can accumulate a lot wealth in limited period of time. CSS seems like as we producing servants who only serve their company master like the east India company did in the past; this mechanism of selecting bureaucrats looks like to prolong the colonialism. on Facebook on Facebook