Cover Story

Merit – Not Domicile

The time has come for the youth of Sindh to break the protective walls of the quota
system and enter open competition on the basis of qualifications seasoned with merit.

By Dr. Maria Saifuddin Effendi | August 2020

The quota system generates a fine balance of opportunity and representation in public services and education among the masses belonging to the contrasting demographics of agrarian and industrial areas of a country.

In Pakistan, the quota system was first introduced by Prime Minister Khan Liaquat Ali Khan in 1948 to create equal opportunity for the East Pakistanis. In 1973, the quota system was revised to provide 60% opportunities to the rural population in Sindh and 40% to the urban population. It was subsequently extended 2013 for 20 more years and would be completing its 60 years in 2033.

In the past 48 years, the ‘fine’ balance of opportunity between rural and urban people of Sindh has turned into a piercing discrimination that has gradually discouraged and prevented the urban youth to cultivate aspirations to join, for example, the civil services. The civil services of Pakistan cater to 92.5% of quota holders and only 7.5 % is on merit. In the education sector, people with lower grades and rural domicile are conveniently catered for in professional (medical and engineering) studies. Not only that this defeats and compromises merit, the quota system also risks crucial industries and human lives by inducting people with lower grades/CGPA into jobs at hospitals, engineering colleges and other organizations. People with fake domiciles and carrying two different provincial domiciles simultaneously, tell a story of political corruption which is encouraged by the quota system.

The quota system was a quick-fix but has created long-term impacts. It became a source of discrimination and impacted efficiency and quality in bureaucratic structures. There is a difference between merit and quota. Quota requires a domicile from rural areas, a piece of paper which guarantees one’s belongingness to a lesser developed region in the country. Just because somebody has a domicile from a rural area doesn’t mean the person has also lived in the under-developed area for his entire life. Merit requires years of commitment, academic acumen, genuine efforts, qualifications, experience and hard work. Since the only criterion that lends them to participate in CSS is merit, urbanites have no other choice but to invest their energies and efforts in achieving their goals. Contrarily, a person with a quota option may have easier conditions to opt for CSS.

The domicile is a poor indicator of authenticating one’s inaccessibility to equal opportunity in education and employment. Why? It is only a document to prove someone’s residence in an area, based on their birth certificate. Over the past 5 decades, migration has taken place from rural Sindh to Karachi. Most of these people have an agrarian or feudal background. They have settled in the city, have attended the best schools but they still possess the domicile of interior/rural Sindh. This gives them an unfair opportunity over someone who is competing on merit. It is also worth noting that rural domicile-holders with urban grooming face lesser competition in CSS exam at rural centres.

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