The experience of day 1 in a new class is always exhilarating. One of the very few experiences where you sit in a class of almost 50, or sometimes more and if you are lucky enough all these people are new faces to you, a blank sheet to fill. You can colour the sheet in the horrors of greys and whites or you can paint a rainbow. Every new class is a rebirth of your personality, a second chance life gives you to portray whatever image of you, you want to.
This September my plans to obtain a master’s degree got ruined because of COVID-19 and just like an average Pakistani I complained about the lack of job opportunities in Pakistan without even applying to one. Thus, instead of wasting my year, I decided to do what every Pakistani with minimal knowledge and nothing to do does; attempting Central Superior Services competitive examinations.
Fast forward to my first CSS class, I sat there in freshly ironed white Shalwar Kamiz, lightly dabbed red lipstick, pearls in my ears and a new watch. I somehow managed to put my one leg on top of the other regardless of low comfort levels of the plastic chair I was sitting on because in my head I was already an Assistant Commissioner.
As the convenor asked us to introduce ourselves and explain why we wanted to become an officer, the adrenaline in my brain prepared a flight response but I am a fighter and this was the time to impress all 45 pupils in my class and the convenor. Being the fifth one in the first row I had a few minutes to decide what kind of a person I want to be in front of this class and decided to go with a personality of mine I like to call Mazari. In a short sentence, Mazari is a know-it-all, better than you, has a foreign degree and a boss you hate kind of a person.
“I am Sameyia and..and..aa… I want to be an officer because often incapables sit on capable seats in Pakistan. Why do I think I am capable, you ask? I have a degree from London in Politics and International Relations which taught me the importance of good policymaking to be where the United Kingdom is, and Pakistan is not.” I answered with a grin taking up 75% of my facial space. Not sure about good policymaking but one thing for sure a ‘degree from London’ taught me is you always must give a reason to do something bigger than yourself, but believable.
Proud of my answer I decided to open my ears which were blocked with the thoughts of standing out initially and listen to what others have to say. After all, one only knows where one stands after measuring the water levels.
To my surprise, 98% of my fellows wanted to become officers for all the wrong reasons. One of the most common answers was to be powerful and rich. The fact that 20-something-year-olds were not even finding the need to conceal their illegal goals was astonishing. How can be a job that has ‘servant’ in its description be powerful and how can you be rich with a pay package given to a 17th-grade officer.
We all know the answer to how, but not being ashamed of your selfish goals is where the problem lies. Parents have been teaching their children how easy life becomes after you clear an exam. How can one complain about corruption in a department when people want to become an officer not to provide services but to get services?
Moving on another common answer was the pressure from parents and their dreams. Funnily enough majority of people in my class are engineers and doctors; two well-known parental pressure professions, who after not fitting in their respective fields are aspiring to be an officer because of parental pressure, once AGAIN! Not to my surprise, the most common answer from my female peers was to escape the death of their dreams; marriage. One of them even had her wedding planned a month after the expected results date. She was hoping to clear it by then, so she has a valid reason to cancel the wedding and prove the worth of her dreams to her family and society.
Bureaucracy is the backbone of any nation, a group that runs the country. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s bureaucracy is corrupt beyond the imaginations of a common man and the problem does not start on the first day in the office when someone presents you gifts to sign files but years before that. The problem starts when parents tell you power is the only way of surviving in Pakistan and success translates to the amount of money you have.
The problem starts when one defines a CSS officer as someone who has the government filling up petrol in his/her luxury cars. The problem arises when one calls civil service a secure job that pays you even if you do not turn up at the office. To improve structural issues in Pakistan this bubble ought to burst.
Acts like Public and Representative Office Disqualification Acts should be reintroduced and reapplied correctly. Although it comes with the plus factor of getting rid of corrupt officers it will take the burden off people my age. It will create a generation of people who do not have goals that are achieved with a country on stake.