Only one holiday a week- an admirable decision


Chaudhry Muhammad Latif

It may appear a petty action of the Prime Minister of Islamic Republic of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif to declare only one holiday in a week on his very first day of the assumption of his high office. But in fact, it is a big administrative decision with far reaching healthy consequences for rural uplift, convenience of civil servants and public at large. It was a felt need of the nation to rectify the fault of two holidays in a week at the national level. The two holidays system simply meant to add luxury to the luxurious and misery to the miserable. The said system was not wise rather it was otherwise. All the district offices were observing one holiday since the beginning and only directorates and secretariats at the federal and provincial level were open only for five days who most often would bracket their holidays with weekends thus the whole week would go waste.

The decision is big because big authorities are adverse to the decision. Had the Prime Minister consulted the federal secretariat level senior officers the verdict could be difficult because several similar efforts in this respect had been earlier foiled. Therefore, the decision is all the more commendable. It seems the personal sincere decision of the Prime Minister who feels the pains and pleasures of the public and knows the secrets of the progress of the nation. It exhibits the interests of the Prime Minster to work hard.

In AJK, too the two holidays a week system was experienced twice. In the earlier span the writer was holding the assignment of Secretary Services and had close analysis of the difficulties faced by the lower staff like peons, drivers etc, mostly coming from rural areas. They had to reach office in the morning and bear the additional expenses of their lunch. They would reach their homes in evenings very late hours in winter in particular. The lower staff would also undergo the loss of domestic inevitable engagements besides the problem of transport. The female staff had crucial difficulties. So we had to arrange a canteen for the low paid staff with free accommodation so as to make the food cheaper. After the bitter experience we recommended to the Prime Minister of AJK, Mujahid-e-Awal Sardar Muhammad Abdul Qayyum Khan, to restore one holiday system and he, being aware of the ground realities, agreed to the suggestion. He also was conscious of the delayed decision making process at Directorate and Secretariat level due to two holidays practice. It had adverse effect on administration and pace of development projects awaiting approval of top level authorities.

After sometimes again the decision makers at secretariat level persuaded the Prime Minister to adopt the uniform policy with Pakistan. In fact it was a luxury of elite of bureaucracy at federal level while the provinces were bound to follow. The two holiday system had no relevance with economy of energy rather than electricity line losses increased due to lack of effective supervision and delayed decision.

I am afraid the federal secretariat may not mislead the Prime Minister of Islamic Republic Pakistan to review the apt, appropriate, useful, and beneficial decision taken abruptly but timely. The promotion cases of subordinate officers were held   up at the higher decision making levels. Now the higher offices will remain open for six days a week and subordinate will have easy access at the top level for their selection board, pension cases, and other cases of nominations for higher courses which could be bound with specific dates were likely to be lapses due to delayed decisions and communications. The two holidays practice requires longer hours for five days to complete the package of weekly hours. As a consequence late departure from offices would require transport and security of person and property of the employees leaving for rural areas. The facilities are not available in Pakistan keeping in view the obtaining conditions in our rural areas. There is a general perception of the public at large in rural areas that government policies are often urban-oriented and mostly adverse to working conditions in rural areas.

As such the one holiday a week was long awaited decision by the federal government which has rightly and luckily been taken by the present Prime Minister. The decision has been hailed at large by the public and civil servants. As the autonomous bodies also follow the government timings, therefore, people will feel convenient in disbursing their utility bills and other financial transactions. So the government of Pakistan should adhere to the advantageous decisions which have earned goodwill for the present government which has the benefit of the pool of wisdom of multiple experienced political parties of the country.

The writer is retired additional Chief Secretary of AJK and advocate Supreme Court of AJK.