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Recruitment of Public Leaders: Merit OR Loyalty

Asia
Elites
Executives
Government
Public Administration
Abiha Zahra
Information Technology University, Lahore, Pakistan
Abiha Zahra
Information Technology University, Lahore, Pakistan

Abstract

This paper aims to theorize the principal-agent relation (politics-administration) in the context of public administration in Pakistan by mapping and comprehensively analyzing the leadership background in the public organizations. (Q1: what have been the recruitment practices for the leadership positions in public sector organizations (both civil servants and non- civil servants?)), (Q2: What does the tenure of the public leaders explain about the merit or loyalty nexus?) and (Q3: What has been the impact of various political regimes during the selected period on the recruitment patterns?) The paper answers the research questions empirically with an analysis of career background characteristics (education and job-related experience) of heads of 20 public sector organizations in Pakistan during the period from 1990’s till 2022. The paper further analyzes impact of recruitment practices on the length of tenure of the public leaders. Since, the degree of loyalty of the heads is gauged by assessing the stability of tenure i.e., its completion as per the official organization legal documents. The article also aims to assess what merit is in the changing political landscape in Pakistan and whether there is any difference between merit-based recruitment and politicized (at-will-of-the-government) recruitment in different tenures. This paper will analyze the nature and relativity of meritocracy and loyalty in recruitment practices prevalent in Pakistan. It provides an avenue for policy makers and bureaucracy reform teams to reflect on recruitment practices over the years and the relevance of tenure to better prepare for the effective appointments and reflect on the politicization of bureaucracy debates that puts loyalty necessarily away from merit; giving it a negative connotation. This study will contribute by providing much needed longitudinal empirical data on leadership background (recruitment practices) over the period of more than two decades and adds to the merit or loyalty debate in a developing country with continuous emphasis on civil service reforms. It will also provide evidence on specialist hirings in the public sector (outside civil service) and what has that meant for merit or loyalty nexus.