In the mid 90s, he leaves his highly lucrative job with one of the finest multinational oil marketing companies in Pakistan (Caltex) to aggressively pursue his new found passion of joining Civil Service of Pakistan for which he was to pass the most competitive examination of the country (that’s the CSS). With rigorous and painstaking study, he passes the written portion. Next is the stage of appearing for interview before a group of retired civil servants, judges and generals.
The 25 years old boy, scion of an impoverished family of rural area, early education from dusty and roofless schools of country side and no apparent sophistication, comes down to Lahore, a metropolitan city of Pakistan, to face a pack of eminent and illustrious interviewers.
The kid enters the boardroom with thumping heart and racing pulse. In a traditional authoritative tone, Chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission, a retired Pakistan Army General asks him to sit down.
“What do you know about the Two Nation Theory?” the General asks him the first question.
Sir, Two Nation Theory is fundamentally a divine and scriptural concept aging back to the origin of Adam.”
The boy replies with bedouin confidence. On this, the General bursts into childish laughter. Seeing him, all members of his Commission also start giggling hysterically. The kid gets frightened and a bit confused as well. At this moment, he summons his innate courage and interrupts the laughter of ‘eminent’ interviewers.
“Sir, I fear I couldn’t make my point across the way I wanted. May I illustrate my point?” The boy requests.
“Go ahead”, says the General.
“With the creation of Man, God also sent His guidance, we call Scriptures. One man fervently believes in His guidance and another violently denies.”
“See the example of Prophet Noah, his own wife and son denied Divine guidance while non-relatives had faith in God. Noah and believers were in the Ark while his wife and son were drowned in the deluge. One was a nation of believers and other was of non-believers.”
“Take the example of Abraham. His father was idol-worshipper. He denied the Divine guidance. Here, again two nations purely based on belief system.”
“Look at the story of Prophet Sodom, his own wife denied the guidance of God and was subjected to punishment along with other wrong-doers. Two nations…….based on ideology.”
“Take the example of Prophet Muhammad, his two real paternal uncles opposed him tooth and nail. Muhammad and his uncles were standing on the opposite sides. Dividing line was ideology…divine principles….heavenly creed…belief system…. scriptures.”
“The Party of God versus the Party of Devil”.
“You follow your life system; We follow Ours.”
“Sir Syed called it Two Nation Theory two centuries back while Samuel Huntington calls it Clash of Civilizations today.”
In one breath, the boy was quoting verses and stories from Holy Quran like a thoroughbred scholar. The Chairman and his other colleagues were literally rendered speechless and were squinting at him with awe. The Board might have been convinced with telling arguments of the young man because he certainly had punched and punctured the intellectual arrogance of the ‘distinguished’ members.
During the entire interview, the young man keeps his firm grip on his self-confidence, poise and dignity.
Here comes the final round.
“You’ve done MBA from IBA, Karachi. And you’re working for Caltex Oil Pakistan Ltd. Is it correct?”, enquires the General.
“I’ve left the company for the sake of preparation of CSS. Sir”, the young man confirms.
“How much were you earning there?”, the General further asks.
“Sir, my package was around Rs.25,000 per month and company leased car.” The interviewee replies.
“You’ve left a job worth Rs.25000 to join this damn civil service!” One member jumps in.
“Sir, money isn’t the only thing that drives me forward. I’m looking for empowering platform that enables me to solve problems of downtrodden people. And I see, Civil Service is such a profession where I can deliver according to my natural aptitude.” The boy replies.
“But gentleman, it’s age of private professions. Civil Service has lost its charm.” Another member makes the comment.
“Sir, I agree that private professions are highly lucrative, there’s no doubt and debate. But I believe Civil Service is still a prestigious profession where you can really serve your country men. Since, I belong to the under-privileged class; I can understand the real problems and plight of the common man.” The boy continues his arguments in support of his pursuit.
“I think Civil Service has no future. You better concentrate on your private job which you’ll again find easily.” The General came hard on the boy while showing his body language of winding up the session.
“Sir, last year, your son left Pakistan Army and joined Civil Service.”
“Sir, last year, son, son-in-law and daughter-in-law of a very top bureaucrat in the Centre, you all know his name, joined Civil Service.”
“Sir, last year, a son of Chief Secretary of Punjab joined Civil Service.”
“Sir two years back, son-in-law of our Prime Minister left army and joined Civil Service of Pakistan.”
“If Civil Service has lost its future then why your sons, sons-in-law, daughters, daughters-in-law and nephews and nieces are joining it? Has it lost its future for under-privileged classes or for all?”
The boy again rendered the entire bench/bunch speechless and thunderstruck.
“Thank you, Gentleman.” The General showed him the door.
Final result was announced in a few months’ time. The boy passed the exam but lost the trade allocation by one mark. Later on, he came to know that the Commission awarded him lowest marks in the interview—100 marks out of 300 while he’d secured very good score in the written portion. Had the Commission awarded him just 125 marks, the boy must have joined either Customs Group or Police Service of Pakistan.
You might be pondering and wondering as to who this boy is: It’s me, Ashraf Chaudhry, who later on had to re-start his career from scratch in 2000.
(With the announcement of the CSS result, there were wide-spread reports in papers on alleged allocations on the basis of favoritism. Daily Jang, the local paper with largest circulation even ran a story of digging out connections of successful candidates with ‘Who’s Who and What’s What” of Pakistan.”
The objective of narrating this story is that your job is to only prepare for the interview and do your best. You can’t control the external factors; you can just learn to live with them.