‘Araam ka hay naam’ is the tagline of Diamond Foam. The recognized mattress company recently placed a vacancy ad in an English language daily for the position of Director Administration. Like the requirements of any merit-based hiring process, one expected to read a job description along the lines of ‘a set of skills, a relevant degree, and experience in the field’. But alas, this company was not looking for any of the above qualities in a candidate, to fit the vacant supervisory role; instead, the ad specified in clear terms that it sought a retired brigadier to lead its HR, transport, and logistical operations.
The obvious and surface-level implication of such a hiring condition was that it served to eliminate a level playing field by limiting the pool of potential candidates. Companies proudly claim that their hiring procedures are free from biases yet we have here a major private-sector company throwing the principles of skill-based recruitment out of the window to favor a certain rank of army official for a senior role. However, the more pertinent question to ask in this case is what can a former security official bring to the said position that a civilian employee cannot? What abilities does he have that makes him more qualified to perform the work?
The answer to that could be best understood in the very next line of the ad, which read “effective liaison with civil law enforcement agencies and related government organizations required”. A former security official, with his network of civil-military connections, can procure the kind of benefits for the company that perhaps an ordinary person cannot.
Having served in the country’s most powerful institution, an army man establishes connections with the higher tiers of government officials, which makes him an ideal fit to help a company out of legal entanglements it could land in. The nexus these individuals enjoy can hardly be challenged. In this context, other skills or experiences mean almost nothing. Little wonder that ex-military officials face no troubles finding employment in traditionally civilian roles, while qualified civilians remain jobless.
Why is this a problem considering the current employment landscape? Educational institutes across the country are producing millions of graduates every year and there are not enough jobs to employ them. Most graduates, even after four-year college degrees struggle to support themselves. PM Imran promised 1 million jobs for the youth as part of his Naya Pakistan scheme. The grim reality is that we haven’t seen even a quarter of those jobs materialize. On the contrary, industries across the country are facing a series of different challenges and a large number of people have lost work over the past year because of the economic slowdown.
On the other hand, retired security officials are recipients of handsome pensions along with other service benefits such as subsidized medical, residential plots, etc. The recent Bajwaleaks has also laid bare that certain retired armymen may have economic stakes in nearly every industry under the sun including real estate, fertilizers, pizza, so on. In light of these facts, the truly struggling segment of society is that of young and middle-aged job seekers. Should retired officials then be taking up roles in private-sector organizations at the expense of deserving job-seekers?
When discussing the vacancy for Director Administration, a friend pointed out that it’s also likely the position had already been filled and the vacancy – a mere formality- was describing the exact profile of the hired person. Whether that’s true or not is something we don’t know but what can be said with certainty is that such practices, limiting open competition, should be done away with.