Quetta: To many in Balochistan stunted by absence of employment opportunities and striving for the steady security of a government job, Seher Shafi’s position as a lecturer at a public sector university in Balochistan may be a dream come true.

The lecturer in English with the basic pay scale of 18, Shafi has what many in the beleaguered province would see as a secure job with future prospects at a leading university – the Quetta based Balochistan University of Information Technology (BUITMS).

But Shafi wants more. The young lecturer is in thrall of the “charms and distinction” that comes with a bureaucratic life. She has twice attempted  the highly competitive exams of CSS  – or Central Superior Service that constitutes the creme-de-la-creme of Pakistani bureaucracy.

“Many of my colleagues at BUITMS have cleared the CSS exams and left teaching for good, ” Shafi told News Lens.“They enjoy their lives as the perks and privileges offered to a civil service officer (CSP) are far superior than what  teachers or people of other professions have access to.”

Shafi’s observation is not far off the mark. Over the years, an increasing number of educated youth in Balochistan have opted for CSS. According to that Federal Public Service Commission’s annual report for 2011, 482 candidates were registered whereas only 294 appeared in the examination. FPSC report for 2012 says as many as 501 candidates were registered with 396 taking the examination. Similarly, the FPSC annual report for 2013 shows that as many as 537 candidates were registered and 409 took the examination.

“The interest of students from Balochistan in CSS is steadily on the rise,” Provincial Officer of FPSC Amjad Khan told News Lens. “This is partly because as youth gets more educated, their interest and confidence in themselves increases. The spread of education in the province has also increased their confidence in the merit system of the FPSC.”

Khan said a few years ago, only two halls were booked for candidates but this year the FPSC had to book around 8 to 9 examination halls due to the increase in number of candidates appearing in the examination.

He said not only unemployed youth but also people with jobs and professionals such as doctors, engineers, even army officers, appear in the CSS examination.

“It is because the power and privileges enjoyed by an officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service are much more than that of a doctor or an engineer,” said Khan. “A deputy commissioner is the head of an entire district with more perks and privileges than professionals in any other field.”

FPSC press releases announcing results of CSS examination over the last few years corroborate Amjad Khan’s observation. The 2013 result shows that a doctor named Hafiz Bugti – an MBBS student of final year – was selected to join Pakistan Civil Services and the results for 2015 show that an army captain Aurangzaib Jamaldini made it to Pakistan Administrative Services through FPSC.

Shehryar Khan, who is an electrical engineer studying for an  MS degree at BUITMS, has attempted the examination twice. Khan says that that because of fewer job opportunities, he had to go for the exam.

“Lack of industrial infrastructure in Balochistan makes it challenging for engineers in finding a job and that is why most of the professionals opt for CSS examinations,” said Khan.

Even though it is the immense power that goes with the position that , like other provinces, may lure the youth in Balochistan to try their luck at the highly competitive and tough CSS exams, the fact that authorities have been keen to mollify an increasingly alienated Baloch population may have something to do with it. The quota of Balochistan in the FPSC pool of allocated seats was increased from 5.3 percent to to 6 percent after 2006. From the Aghaaz Huqooq e Balochistan in 2009 to Balochistan Reconciliatory Package announced on June 26, 2015, the federal and provincial authorities have been making efforts to mainstream the “misguided” youth of Balochistan, offering them incentives to make them give up armed insurgency against the state.

Entrepreneurs in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan, have responded to capitalize on this uptick in interest in CSS by opening up coaching centres or academies for candidates. Kamran Mengal,  administration officer at one such academy told News Lens a good number of students attended the classes, coming from various backgrounds.

“Even doctors and engineers come to prepare for the exams,” said Mengal, adding that it is, perhaps, the charms of  bureaucratic life that attract them to CSS. He added that a candidate qualifying CSS served as a model of inspiration for others, triggering a cycle of of interest among the youth, inspiring them to try their luck as well.

On account of the increasing interest of candidates, said Mengal, a good number of coaching academies are working in the provincial capital where students from remote districts such as Gwader, Panjgur and Chaman, come to prepare for the exam.

Still, the number of students who qualify the annual examination remains low. In 2012, only 29 candidates of the 396 candidates qualified the examination, 14 of which were selected for the civil services. For 2013, the number is even less – 8 out of 409 candidates made it to the civil services.

Amjad Khan, the provincial officer for FPSC, said that due to limited seats and increasing number of candidates, the examination got tougher every year. Khan said in 2015 the entire syllabus was revised and many new approaches and subjects were included  to make the screening all the more competitive.

The fact that many candidates who prepare for years, appearing repeatedly in the exam and still not making it to the service, bears testimony to how tough the examination has become over the years. Ayesha Ahmed, a senior school teacher, has attempted the examination twice and is now preparing for her third and last attempt.

Ahmad said that although she held a BPS 17 position, she was unable to serve the way she wanted and that is why she had opted to go for CSS. She said a good number of her colleagues were attracted to the administrative services because of the prestige characteristic to a bureaucratic lifestyle.

“Ours is a power and status-driven society and the prestige inherent to bureaucratic life attracts everyone,” said Ahmad.

The Central Superior Services (CCS) examinations are held annually in February by the Federal Public Service Commission Islamabad. The examinations are conducted simultaneously in all major cities of Pakistan with successful candidates going to the 12 groups in the Civil Services of Pakistan. The candidates have to qualify written evaluation tests in 12 subjects and clear medical, psychological and viva- voce tests. The Federal Public Service Commission has sub-branches in all four provinces.

According to Kamran Mengal, owner of the coaching academy in Quetta, candidates spend years in Lahore and Islambabad, away from home, preparing for the examination.

 

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