Genesis of Civil Service in Pakistan

Prior to the rule of British East India Company the civil service of Mughals was based on a mansabdari system. However, the East India Company was the one to introduce a proper system of cadre based civil services in India including a proper recruitment and training system. The civil service thereafter developed in three distinct periods of history [but the point I am trying to make is that it evolved in accordance with the requirement of what governance meant at that time]

Phase-I – till 1740:
Purpose: As East India Company was in power, and mainly dealt with trade it required youth ‘who were more helpful than useful.
Structure: The 4 grades in civil service were apprentices, writers, junior factors and the senior factors respectively.
Qualifications: Initially their qualifications were good penmanship [the skill of writing by hand] and later on knowledge of commercial accounts also.
Method of appointment: submission of application and obtaining nomination from any one of the Directors of the East India Company

Phase-II (1741-1833)
Purpose: After extending its jurisdiction to whole of India especially after the Battle of Plassey (1757) – importance of trade was taken over by administration
Structure: CSS (Covenanted Civil Services) post 1757 – its members signed covenants [agreements] with Company’s Board of Directors. Consequent to the India Act, 1784 Lord Cornwallis split bureaucracy into two parts: (a) political branch responsible for civil governance & (b) commercial branch for commercial activities.

Qualifications: East India Company College or East India College established in 1806 at Hertfordshire UK to train “writers” (administrators) for Honourable East India Company (HEIC). It provided general and vocational education for young men 16 to 18 years of age nominated by Company’s directors for overseas civil service.
Method of appointment: Preliminary examinations conducted by the India House. Only the candidates nominated by the Directors were eligible for admission in that college and they were also to appear in the examinations of the classics and the arithmetic papers. The college had framed a syllabus that would help the students to learn mainly the subjects and the language helpful for them in their future life and work in India. This system continued till the Charter Act of 1853 replaced the system of nomination by the directors of the Company by a system of competitive examination.

Phase-III (1833-1947)
Purpose: With full control over whole India, purpose became to administer dominion of Company, and later British Government.
Structure: [CSS 1833-1886], [Imperial Civil Service 1886-1919 onwards Civil Service of India & Provincial Service (mentioning name of province][1919 – 1924 All India Services & Central Services including Class 1 & 2][1924 – All India Service & Class 1 Central Services converted to Central Superior Services))
However an important developed was recommendation of Macaulay Committee (1854) to replace the patronage system of Company with a permanent civil service based on merit based system through competitive entry examination. This was adopted by British Parliament in 1855.
The Charter Act of 1873 allowed the natives [Indians] to join the CSS. But due to their own economic and social reasons the Indian could not go to England to compete in the examination there.
In 1886, Aitcheson Commission [headed by Sir Charles Aitchesion] gave its report, making the following decisions:

• Max age of entry = 23 yrs old
• 3 tier classification :- Imperial, Provincial and Subordinate civil Services.
• Abolishment of Statuary Civil Services.
• Certain seats in Imperial to be filled from Provincial.

Method of Appointment: Competitive exam [1855 onwards]. After 1886, It was called as Imperial Civil Service and its members were appointed under section XXXII of Government Of India Act, 1858.

By 1920, there were five methods of entry into the higher civil service: firstly, the open competitive examinations in London; secondly, separate competitive examinations in India [started being held in 1922 & thereafter]; thirdly, nomination in India to satisfy provincial and communal representation; fourthly, promotion from the Provincial Civil Service and lastly, appointments from the bar (one-fourth of the posts in the ICS were to be filled from the bar)

The Royal Commission of the Superior Civil Service in India under the Chairmanship of Lord Lee, in its 1924 Report, recommended setting up of Public Service Commission of India. The Public Service Commission of India was set up on 1st October, 1926 under the Chairmanship of Sir Ross Barker
The Government of India Act, 1935 provided for the establishment of a Public Service Commission for each Province

Ranks/Posts of the Indian (Imperial) Civil Service

• Central Government
o Secretary to Government of India
o Joint Secretary to Government of India
o Deputy Secretary
o Additional Deputy Secretary
o Under Secretary
o Assistant Secretary to Government of India
• Courts
o Judge of State High Court
o District Judge
• State Government
o Chief Secretary (British Empire)
o Secretary to State Government
o Divisional Commissioner
o Deputy Commissioner / District Collector

Before proceeding to post Independence Civil Service structure and reforms, a summary on an all important assessment writeup on The Indian Civil Service – by Ann Ewing is direly required to put matters in perspective.

Summary on writeup – points towards role of ICS, its re-adjustment with political realities & willingly filling in vacuum left by political forces is the highlight of this write-up.

The Indian Civil Service personified British Raj to millions of Indians. It was a small administrative elite, and at the turn of the century (20th) nearly exclusively British, in highest hierarchy. Lower ranks were peopled by army of subordinate clerks and provincial staff.
The ICS officers held all of the key positions, surrounded the Viceroy, dominated provincial governments and were ultimate authority in the 250 districts that comprised British India.
The Indian Civil Service perhaps enjoyed most confidence in its ability to rule India during the Nineteenth Century. The higher levels of government were untrammeled by popular ministers.
However, over a period of time the ICS became bogged down in administrative minutiae. Within the secretariats, systems became long-winded and laborious and paper work increased enormously. District officers received continual demands for reports on subjects as various as police administration, excise, tea gardens and railway accidents.
Ridiculous practices re-developed: letters were placed in docket covers and their contents ‘summarised’ at greater length than the original; documents were printed only to be sent a few yards down the corridor.
“The Montagu Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 introduced a degree of popular control of local councils, some responsible government in the provinces … Members of the ICS had, for the first time, to deal with elected ministers and to face more political criticism than had previously been the case.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the ICS still exercised considerable control especially at the District level, despite demands for self-government. However, the Government of India Act, 1935 granted full responsible government to the Provinces and a greater say for Indian Politicians at Central Government.
“After elections, new ministers set about their work illustrated their determination to prove the reality of their power. … Adjustment was the motif which ran through this period of responsible government. Newly elected ministers on the one hand had to come to terms with their dependence upon the professional expertise of the ICS and with the necessity of working within established administrative convention. ICS officers, on the other hand., who had long viewed themselves as the guardians of smooth administration both in the secretariats and in the districts, had to accept that efficiency alone was no longer enough and that the price of self- government might, in some cases, be the sacrifice of such efficiency. The handover of authority to ministers with a very different set of values and perspectives appeared to threaten the prestige of the Service. But it was not just the politicians and the civil servants who had to make adjustments. So too did the electorate. It was necessary to grasp the complex distinction between a political party and a government composed of members of that party. The implications had also to be worked through of an altered district hierarchy within which the traditional power of the district officer was lessened whilst that of ministerial supporters was increased. “
To make matters worse Nehru declared that the working of the ministries had ‘exploded the myth of ICS competence. It was only after the Congress ministries resigned in 1939 that the ICS took a sigh of relief. “District officers too, although less affected by the period of responsible government, were not altogether sorry to return to old times. They were restored to posts of real authority as the pivots of district administration and in Bombay, for example, district officers once more became chairmen of the various rural development organisations.

After 1947

The All India Act 1935 [Sections 240 onwards] provided for civil service and Section 241 for “Federal” and “Provincial” streams of civil service.

Purpose: Same as before independence



(i) All Pakistan Services including Civil Service of Pakistan and Police Service of Pakistan,

(ii) Central Services including the Pakistan Foreign Service, broad category of Finance and other services, with  Finance category including the Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service, Pakistan Railway Accounts Service, Pakistan Military Accounts Service, Pakistan Taxation Service, and the Pakistan Customs and Excise Service, the Pakistan Postal Service, Pakistan Military Land and Cantonment Service, Central Secretariat Service, and Central Information Service. Each of these services had its own cadre and composition rules, specifying the total cadre strength in terms of its number of positions.

(iii) Provincial Civil service – Recruitments at level of Deputy Secretary, Section Officers and Executive Branch  [1962 Rules]

[1973 onwards

(I) Central Superior Services including (i) Pakistan Customs Services (ii) Commerce & Trade Group (iii) Foreign Service of Pakistan (iv) Inland Revenue Service of Pakistan (v) Information Services of Pakistan (vi) Military Lands & Cantonment Group (MLCG) (vii) Office Management and Secretariat Group (viii) Pakistan Administrative Service (ix) Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service (x) Police Service of Pakistan (xi) Postal Group (xii) Railways (Commercial & Transport) Group

(II) Provincial Civil Service – under respective Civil Servants Act, as Provincial Civil Service (Executive Group) & Provincial Civil Service (Secretariat Group). This was followed by Provincial Management Service.

Method of appointment: Post 1973 through annual competitive exam of Federal Public Service Commission or the Provincial Public Service Commission.

The Civil Service of Pakistan selects only 7.5% of the applicants by merit, education, qualification and experience while the 92.5% are selected by a quota system.

Provincial Civil Service also had merit and thereafter Zonal Quotas which has been followed in the Provincial Management Service too.

Administrative Reforms of 1973
In 1972 the Government of Pakistan appointed an Administrative Reform Committee to study the role of civil bureaucracy in the context of socio economic political development of the country and formulate recommendations. The recommendations of the committee led to the Administrative Reforms of 1973, with the inception of which , the elite CSP cadre, which dominated civil service positions at all levels of the administration – federal, provincial and district – was abolished; service distinctions were terminated; and all civil service cadres were labelled “occupational groups”. The rank hierarchy that divided civil servants into four classes – ranging from officer-level Class-I to menial positions in Class IV – was replaced by a system of 22 national pay grades known as Basic Pay Scales (BPS), covering: workers performing unskilled tasks under BPS-1-4; various categories of clerical personnel under BPS-5-15; superintendents under BPS-16; and officers under BPS-17-22.

Some of the reforms were:

1. The abolition of service cadres, and their functional replacement by the “occupational Groups”
2. The establishment of a Unified National Pay Scales replacing the numerous pay scales in practice at the time of reform.
3. The discontinuance of the practice of reservation of posts for members of the elite cadre such as the Civil Services of Pakistan (CSP).
4. The abolition of the CSP Academy.
5. The establishment of a joint pre-service training program.
6. The introduction of “lateral recruitment” program – Provisions were made for recruitment to posts within central superior services through competitive examination
7. The establishment of a provision for vertical movement between cadres was also introduced.
8. The creation of Federal Public Service Commission & establishment of Services Tribunals

9. Constitutional protection given to civil servants was withdrawn.

Zia-ul-Haq Era

The administrative reforms introduced by Mr. Bhutto were characterized as a politically motive and a obvious attempt to control. Following steps were taken by the government;

(i) A Pay and service commission was established. However, its recommendations were not accepted. [Dr Mehboob ur Rehman, then Finance Minister, headed the Pay & Pension Commission. Report proposed for the start of indexing system to increase the pay annually with respect to inflation rate.]

(ii) Government abolished the lateral recruitment program and Zia regime reappointed several CSP officers who had been dismissed by Bhutto.

(iii) A great number of state owned enterprises and government were staffed with military personnel and they were given 10% in Central Superior Services, which they availed only in select cadres, such as DMG, PSP and Foreign Service.
(iv) Constitutional protection to civil servants was not granted back

Musharaf Era – National Commission of Government Reforms

the Musharraf government started a major reform process of it. The task was to be performed by National Commission of Government Reforms (NCGR) under the chairmanship of Dr. Ishrat Hussain, the former Governor of State Bank of Pakistan.
The final report that was published in September 2007 stated that four CSS cadres i.e., Pakistan Railway Service, Pakistan Postal Service, Commerce and Trade Group, and the Information Service of Pakistan, should be axed. According to the recommendation, Postal and Railway Service should be made autonomous commercial bodies, with Information Service be suspended till further notice. The report also highlighted broad changes in the examination system, with the recommendation of a personality test are made part of the selection process.

Detailed recommendations were:

(I)  it is proposed that the following formally constituted and encadred services, should be retained or established at different levels of the government.

All Pakistan

(i) National Executive Service. (NES)
(ii) Pakistan Administrative Service. (formerly DMG)
(iii) Police Service of Pakistan. (PSP)


(i) Pakistan Foreign Service. (PFS)
(ii) Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service. (PAAS)
(iii) Pakistan Taxation Service with two cadres for Customs and Inland Revenue. (PTS)


(i) Provincial Management Service. (PMS)
(ii) Provincial Executive Service. (PES)
(iii) Provincial Technical and Professional Service. (PTS)
(iv) Provincial Judicial Service. (PJS)

District Service

In addition to the above services, ex-cadre positions and subordinate services (BS 1-16) to be retained.

The major changes proposed in this new framework, compared to the present system are as follows:

(i) All cadres and occupational groups will have a uniform nomenclature i.e. service.

(ii) A new All Pakistan Service – the National Executive Service (NES), along with the Provincial Executive Service (PES), will be constituted for each province for filling senior positions (BS 20-22) in the Federal/ Provincial Secretariats and other identified select key positions, in attached departments/autonomous bodies/ corporations. The NES/ PES will be open to all existing officers serving the Government and also to professionals from outside, meeting certain eligibility criteria. Regional/ Provincial quotas for recruitment to NES will address the complaints of smaller provinces of non-representation at Secretary/ Additional Secretary levels in the Federal Government.

(iii) Fresh recruitment to some of the existing cadres and occupational groups proposed in this paper e.g. Railway Service, Postal Service etc. will be discontinued through the CSS examination and substituted by competitive recruitment of requisite skilled manpower, through FPSC or other transparent and open modes.

(iv) A new District Service, encompassing posts in BS 1-16 will be established for each district, or group of districts will be formed in the first phase. Article 240 of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates that there would be All Pakistan, Federal and Provincial Services. The constitution does not mention a District Service. In view of the fact that most of the interaction of a common citizen takes place at the district level, such a properly constituted and well trained group of Civil Servants is essential at the District level. For City District Governments, the District Service can be extended to include BS 17 officers .These District Service officers will share the posts with Provincial and APS officers.

(v) Separate cadres of Inland Revenue and Customs will be retained, but become components of the Pakistan Taxation Service.

(vi) District Management Group would be renamed as Pakistan Administrative Service.

(vii) Provincial Technical and Professional Services, with multiple cadres such as, Education, Health and Engineering Services etc. will be set up by each province where the critical mass and viable pyramidal structure criteria are met.

(viii) Contract, short term, part time employment and the use of consultants would be encouraged, to fill in the skill gaps or perform jobs of exceptional or non-repetitive, specialized nature.

My note

1.  Civil Service structure is driven by purpose. It is evident that starting from East India Company, the British were clear about purpose of Indian/Imperial Civil Service and changed structure, qualifications and method of recruitment accordingly.

2. The impact on civil service actually started [considered negative by it] with grant of political expression to provincial and local governments. Correspondingly, with growing political authority as its nemesis, the civil service was provided protections within law, till 1973.

3. Till 1973, civil servants in Pakistan enjoyed unbridled power, and quite a share in the running of Government. Rightly, or politically motivated, Bhutto took away the constitutional protection and made civil service answerable [read vulnerable to whims also] to the political strata of government.

4. National Commission of Government Reforms has taken a tangent view on future of civil service but should have included answering the question what is that is wanted from the civil service [as was clear in British time].

5. Civil service in eyes of successive governments has been officers coming through the competitive examinations of CSS & PCS – little realizing that they are not even 0.5 % of overall civil service [which includes teachers, doctors etc] and also not realizing that the strategic part of government never ever goes through any capacity building, nor any rudimentary criteria for appointments and nor ever any KPIs against which their performance could be judged.

6. Specialized subjects are always dealt at Operational level – and Directorates provide enough specialists. Civil Service is required for the tactical level, one below the Strategic level of elected government. Their primary duty is policy implementation and aiding the strategic level in policy making. The voices for specialization stop at civil service alone. If there in merit in their justification, it should not stop at civil service but on the same analogy go to political elite & government structure as well. 

[Any and all comments & suggestions are welcome]