Bureaucracy in Pakistan by Charles H. Kennedy | Review


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Suhai Aziz

Book: Bureaucracy in Pakistan

Writer: Charles H. Kennedy

Published by: Oxford University Press

Published in year: 1987


Charles H. Kennedy has served as director of American institute for Pakistan studies for 13 years. Book Bureaucracy in Pakistan is product of writer’s seven visits spread over a period of 39 months in Pakistan. Mr. Kennedy has written and co-authored more than 18 books on political set up of south asia. He is also credited with writing several papers both published and unpublished on same subject. His other academic interests include the issues of political Islam, and in US foreign policy with respect to the Middle East and South Asia especially pertaining to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Iraq.[i] Writer’s enormous experience guarantees credibility of his work Bureaucracy in Pakistan.

Intended Audience:

Government machinery
International audience (personnel of foreign office)
Students of political science


This book is about the dominance of bureaucratic institutions and polity over other institutions and political cultures in the country. Author has described the evolution of bureaucracy in the country keeping in the context of political changes and their aftermath. Impact of Bhutto’s reforms on civilian bureaucracy and political environment behind that are discussed in detail. Writer has substantiated his opinion stating the fact that it is the elite class that has ruled Pakistan from its very beginning.


The author in this book has attempted to explain the prime structure, evolution, reforms, and consequences of political interventions and impact of these factors on the state of Bureaucracy. Author has maintained a very pragmatic and realistic approach in description and analysis of early bureaucratic state and structure along with functioning of the government. Various cadres, posts and groups of service have been discussed in detail. Kennedy has tried to explain preferences that have always remained in the Civil Service leading to inter-group interaction-whether positive or negative. The contents of the book are spread over a period beginning from pre independence era up till Bhutto’s reforms where in the quota system and cadre abolition has been discussed that was introduced during the tenure of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. However, Post Bhutto reforms have been discussed in more detail and have been accorded most of the space in the book. Author has stated reasons for strength of bureaucracy in the country. According to him, one of the many reasons for strengthening of bureaucracy during the initial phases of this country after the independence was that the reins of power were in hands of a Governor General and a Prime Minister who were themselves former bureaucrats. In addition to that Pakistan had inherited a powerful colonial tradition that could not be effaces or blurred and was adopted keenly. Symbiotic relationship in the interest of the nation between politicians and bureaucrats could not materialize as a result of disparity and disproportion of power among them. The issues related to bureaucracy which have ardently been questioned by the Author are given below:

Nature and extent of authority of a Minister compared to that of a Secretary to the Government is apparently lesser. This is a result of appointment of Ministers who are politically strong but administratively weak and that the tenure assigned to them is relatively short and uncertain when compared to that of a 21 Grade officer.
Preference for generalists. The author argues that general recruitment without requirement of specialization in the administrative domain leads to recruitment of generalists who may have performed well in academics but later fail to deliver when put in a position of administration. Similarly, the author has questioned the fact that DMG despite being a group with no specialization in any field enjoys privilege, commands respect and is accorded high posts in echelons of power. Apart from that Professor Kennedy has also discussed hurdles in the way of technocrats such as preference for generalist groups, norms and practices of bureaucracy and mind set which considers technocrats to be naive administrators.
Cadre system that was introduced some 200 years ago was adopted by Pakistan with some minor modifications. This system compels officer of any group to remain within the ambit of that particular group for rest of his life. In his opinion, aforementioned points have retarded the process of Administrative reform, have contributed to administrative efficiency and have encouraged political intervention.
Professor Kennedy has discussed rationale behind Quota system in detail. When Pakistan came into being, the higher percentage of Civil Servants comprised of immigrants from Indian state of U.P and Pakistan’s province of Punjab. Where as majority of Pakistan’s population lived in its eastern wing. Representation of Sindh, then N.W.F.P, Baluchistan and former Eastern Pakistan was fairly low. It was the success of Quota system that representation of provinces became proportionate to their populations.
The author has rephrased the Administrative Reforms of 1973 as “Personnel Reorganization” aimed at weakening the position and power of CSPs. He explains that these reforms were a result of negative public opinion formed over a period of time due to inefficient performance and the belief that as CSPs acquired high posts in the Government machinery thus they were to be held responsible , envy and hatred that had developed over time in the heart of other non CSP bureaucrats and political ambition to abolish the authority of CSPs. He explains that as Cadre system was transformed into Occupational Groups it did not affect much other than change in nomenclature.


Although it is a fact that bureaucracy is quite strong in the country but it does not have enough power to derail democracy on its own. Whenever democracy is threatened, bureaucracy has played the role of ancillary partner and not the main culprit. There are other institutions which can be fittingly blamed for subversion of democracy. Thus the writer’s claim that bureaucracy is stronger than democracy in Pakistan seems to be an exaggerated notion. Apart from that research conducted by author is rigorous and contains analysis of around 50 tables and of several research papers. Pre-reform environment stated by author is also well articulated. Issues are discussed in context prevalent at that time e.g. the quota system is discussed in terms that were important back then. In present day scenario quota system is not regarded in the same spirit.


Sequel of book should be published to address the impacts caused by devolution plan.
A glossary of bureaucratic terms should have been added to help readers understand better.

This book can be recommended to general public and CSS exam aspirants for better understanding of country’s bureaucratic set up.


Author has well followed time scale in describing all the events that have shaped the norms of bureaucracy. References are given properly in endnotes. Arguments are substantiated with the help of tables, charts and illustrations.