The Lost War for Specialization: Pakistan’s Higher Bureaucracy in the 1960s and 1970s

Ilhan Niaz


During the 1960s, while the world lauded Pakistan’s development trajectory, a debate raged within the higher bureaucracy on the subject of institutional design. Those engaged in this debate fell, broadly speaking, into advocates of a specialized higher bureaucracy selected on the basis of subject-knowledge and technical competence, and a general-administrator dominated higher bureaucracy chosen for leadership ability. This debate was lost by the former and won by the latter leading to an enormous concentration of responsibility within the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) cadre of the higher bureaucracy. It also led to polarization within the bureaucratic elite and made them vulnerable to reforms that in the 1970s, diminished civil service autonomy, pay, and services conditions, and increased politicization. With the case for specialization having been lost, the reforms advanced since the 1980s assumed that no transition to a specialized ministry-based civil service structure was possible. This paper examines this debate and draws out its implications for Pakistan’s underperformance and development management.

Keywords: Governance, Pakistan, History, Bureaucracy, Public Policy, Reform.

Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.