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Date Posted: 06:46:35 01/23/05 Sun
Author: JAVED

By Javed - 2002
In my child hood I read a story that a Badshah announced death penalty to a thief. When Jalad tried to hang the thief it was found loope of the rope was too big while the thief was very thin and his neck did not tightly fix in it. The wise Badshah ordered that if the neck of thief was not affixing in the knot then whose ever neck gets affixed in the knot he may be hanged.

This story refreshed in my seeing last month a Directorate General Pakistan Post Office Islamabad “Public Notice” for “information OF GENERAL PUNBLIC” that under Post Office act of 1898 conveyance and delivery of letters is exclusive privilege of Post Office and no courier service can indulge in it. MEMBERS OF PUBLIC HAVE BEEN ADVISED to send their letter posts only through Post Office VIOLATION OF WHICH will fetch prosecution. The very serious newspaper DAWN has through its editorial criticised that that the Law concerned was more than a hundred years old while the world had today changed. The fact is world over similar Laws are prevailing to protect the local postal system as “letter mail” is the main bread and butter line of a postal system. For example UAE some 2/3 years took a serious note of couriers carrying letters.

We are a nation of wonderful people. So in this era of “National Reconstruction” where we are claiming “reforming and overhauling” it will still be the common man who will be prosecuted for sending his letter by “courier” and not the postal “higher executives within the Department” under whose blessings, as is a general belief there is a mushroom growth of courier services, a courier will accept a letter from a common man. About a year back a foreign newspaper in its editorial on Pakistan Affairs generally commented was the present government any different from previous ones and gave an example that Secretary of a Ministry under whose tenure in Nawaz Sharif era wrong figures were prepared and presented to IMF/World Bank causing huge penalty to the country was promoted under the present government to Secretary General.

It is an old problem banks deduct huge courier charges from cheques and dividend warrants and in some cases courier charges are more than the amount of dividend itself. About 10 years or so back on some similar occasion I raised the issue with Federal Ombudsman. My argument was that there was a government order to state departments like banks, corporations etc to patronage state products even with an edge on price then why banks were madly using private courier services when a very good service “Urgent Mail Service” of Pakistan Post Office available on cheaper rates then. On the instruction of Federal Ombudsman a meeting was conveyed in the office of the demised Pakistan Banking Council at Habib Bank Plaza Karachi which was attended by representatives of all nationalised banks, Pakistan Post Office and Banking Council. One may not believe that representative of Pakistan Post Office in the meeting from Islamabad was not from the dealing department namely “Special Services Department” which was dealing with Urgent Mail Service” but {if my memories are not misguiding me in this old age] an official of “international post division” who had nothing whatsoever remotest to do with courier service. [When I was serving in Sales & Marketing Department of a government controlled corporation Karachi, once there was a course concerning export. Someone from my department should had attended this as we were dealing export. But as it happens in government departments a blue eyed totally unconcerned cashier from accounts department was officially nominated only for the reason to afford him an “official tour” and some allowances. I too attended the same course but on totally my personal expense taking leave as I was interested to increase my own personal knowledge).

Since the representative of Post Office was an unconcerned person hence naturally lacked any real interest for the department. In the meeting instead availing of opportunity to support the demand of a citizen who had raised a good point in the larger interest of the department, he stated that “he was satisfied that his department was getting appreciable volume of business from banks”. Whereas the naked fact was department had no knowledge, and even today cannot have, that how much volume of courier was daily being generated by banks out of which how much was going to private couriers and how much to Post Office.

It is generally believed that most of the private courier services, except for some real reputed ones like TCS DHL etc have no proper network and these couriers charge heavily from public but use the Pakistan Post Office network for delivering booked items. And there perhaps, as is generally suspected, allegedly is some invisible blessing hands of some postal people on such companies. The private courier services spend a major portion of their budget on “public relationing” and this public relationing is by “keeping happy” people in banks, insurance companies etc who are the bulk customers to fetch more and more business. How madly the private courier is used or patronised by vested interests can be understood from one example. Some 6/7 years back a bank in Karachi had to pay me Rs. 60/-. For sending me pay order of Rs. 60/- it utilised a reputed international private courier whom bank must had paid at least Rs. 400/- plus because at that time I was abroad. This courier never delivered me this article. The bank had to issue me a duplicate and this time, on my instruction sent it under Pakistan Post Office registered mail service at Rs. 20/- and it reached me in 5/6 days safely.

August 1997 during Nawaz Sharif era when all the money obtained under “Qarz Uttaro Scheme” was finished on luxury trips, never ever previously seen high salaried appointments like Chairman PTCL, huge perks in as much as allegedly 5 years advance salaries etc, needing more money to continue spending a campaign was started under the label of “recovering” bad loans. The loans recovered were mostly from those who had taken small amounts for real business and big sharks never ever cared for bullies of arrests etc. July 1997 each bank under this campaign issued thousands and thousands of letters to people having outstanding loans like yellow cab owners etc. ALL THESE LETTERS demanding outstanding loans and advising settlement were despatched by these banks through courier services whereas post office registered mail was much more secured. These banks “deliberately” give such letters to couriers as more the banks give the business the more couriers in return keep them “happy”. It is well known a fact since a decade profit on bank accounts is decreasing. The reason of which is huge unwise expenses by banks which also include unnecessary mad use of courier service etc. Since banks had started charging in the name of so-called service and administration charges under the principle of natural justice account holders also have the right to protect their own rights namely investment. Accordingly being myself an account holder and a citizen drawing the attention to an earlier decision re: couriers and postal service I approached the Federal Ombudsman praying to see this mad use of courier service by banks. The Federal Ombudsman very kindly registered my complaint and in September 1997, asked the State Bank of Pakistan for its comments. Later I never heard any progress from Ombudsman Secretariat Karachi despite my requests.

It is generally believed no wrong whatsoever can be done unless there is someone sitting in the concerned department helping in the wrong. For example we the Karachities know well many mini buses do not ply on full length of route. For example U4 Mini bus. Its official route was from Ancholi (now from new Karachi) to Mahmoodabad but each and every one of us residing on this belt have never ever since mid 70 when this route started seen any U4 going from Ancholi to Mahmoodabad. U4 will ply from Ancholi to Saddar and another group of U4s ply only between Saddar to Mahmoodabad. No U4 mini bus owner can do this – but they are doing this because in the road transport their blessers are sitting. Pakistan post office through its official net work help spread an illegal scheme of “chain money order” early 80s and when it was brought to the notice had there not been ‘interest of any insider” the wrong should had been accepted but it was resisted tooth and nail.

Pakistan Post Office has started an e-mail service for Overseas Pakistanis under which an Overseas Pakistani can send his email letter to Pakistan Post Office from where it is despatched by the department to addressee by mail. This service presently is free as department will prescribe its fee later. This is really a very good service. Surfing the internet I came across a site www.pakmall.com/eletter/ where a heading attracted my attention. The private site offers “Mail and E-Letter Now - Pakmall Guaranteed E-Letter Service” under which an Overseas Pakistani will send his letter to the site under the same format as is of Pakistan Post Office. On receipt of email letter in Pakistan, the site will despatch this letter through a private courier (named therein} to the addressee on a fee of US$5. Now this site in collaboration with private courier is sending letters and department despite knowing this that a private courier cannot accept “letters” for delivery is silent and this silent should not be a.

Pakistan Post Office is one of the best Government Department in Pakistan. When I say this some people laugh but true fact is this department still is doing a good job compared to many other government departments. One can only understand what I say if he is a real judicious and realistic person and evaluates my words keeping in view that postal department and its functionaries have not come “specially from heaven” but are from amongst our own general society we live in. The people working therein are our brothers, cousins, relatives and friends of us – if I can leave my seat say in income tax department 30 minutes before time, or spend half an hour during duty sipping tea with a visitor friend why cannot an official working in Post Office do the same.

I have lived abroad. We are a nation who criticise too much our traditions, our religion, our nation, politicians, government and so on and praise the others. We love foreign products whereas many of our own indigenous products are of much better quality than imported ones. While working in foreign countries like in middle east I saw very nice post office buildings fully centralised air conditioned, bright lights, beautiful counters, different counters for different services etc but the service which our postal functionaries are giving that I never saw abroad. For example our sub post offices comprise mostly in a single rented room with a 40 watts bulb, without any fan or proper stationary, 30 years old stools and chairs for staff, no ball pens and the total staff strength 3 or in some cases two {one clerk called Asst. Sub Post Master, a clerk and third one packer]. This sub post office of 2 to 3 staff right from selling postal stamps, envelopes deals with insured letters, money orders, utility bills, postal insurance premiums, parcels, identity card forms, arms licence, food stamps and so on. Can we expect this in foreign post offices? Certainly not. In middle east what I saw was one counter and one person deals with only one item. The person who sells postal stationery like stamps envelopes will not register it, for registration counter/clerk is separate. For parcel separate clerk. Wrong delivery or Mail posted not received!!! We the Pakistanis has a psychological impact on us about “England”. From England where there are modern sorting machines and we take it best postal service, I have found letters addressed to a person clearly mentioning the country of addressee but being delivered and dropped in my post office in middle east country only because my post box and post box number of real addressee matched. But both at England postal staff did not care it was sending the article to a wrong country and likewise in middle country postal authority did not see letter was destined to another country and not to their’s but just seeing the post box drop it in the corresponding box. Loss of mail!! It is my firm belief that Pakistani postal staff both poor Postman and delivery zones staff do not do any stealing of mail as is a general conception. The stealing of the mail or pilferage from mail is done by so-called “censor staff” which is not postal staff and posting at which section is obtained by high influence. In this era of emails, digital transmission of data faxes etc one would be fool enough to send censorable stuff by mail. But mail censor department has still been kept for certain other “obvious interests”. A few years back I raised this issue with the request that we the ordinary people have no fear of censorship, it may be done on our mail if it is necessary in the interest of the country but it be done in a proper manner namely that when censor staff takes mail from post office it may be counted and weighted. After censor has been done post office receives censored mail back duly counted and weighted and records the difference in weight. Additionally censor staff should not take mail away from post office premises, rather it sits in a hall where a little away from them remain two three senior post office officers who keep seeing opening of envelopes etc. Censor staff after doing needful officially packs and seals the envelope. Post Office Seniors never took any interest on my struggle despite the fact it was in the larger interest of protecting organisation’s image. Matter was referred to Ministry of Interior from where there was usual bureaucratic reply of no sensible logic.

One may say one time while I criticise the Pakistan Post Office eg its notice to public but on the same breath am praising the postal system. The fact is both of view are correct. Pakistan Post Office service still is much better than many other similar public services eg PTCL. And this is only because the structure of Pakistan Post Office was put on a very concrete footings and despite top management lethargy since long due to its sound footing it is still working to a good extent satisfactory. The service is deteriorating gradually because top management is paying more attention in painting a more brighter picture than practical work. For example it claims today to engage its own aeroplanes for transporting mail but has not attention to properly maintain letter boxes. Last year the head of postal department was to visit some town in Sindh. His tour was, if my memories are not misguiding me in this old age, twice postponed which can well be appreciated because of some other urgent business. But what was strange, as per the news item appearing then that “expenses twice incurred on preparation of visit thus went waste”. Why should there be expenses on preparing inspection visits in a debit ridden country?

I have all the best wishes for our Pakistan Post Office. I have practically seen people dedicatedly working there but I am much disappointed now seeing the trends prevailing now in the senior management who appears to have no practical interest rather than thinking of new plans like obtaining planes for post office – in line we are for the last more than 15 years hearing from each successive mouth worth of his slat turning Karachi into Hon Kong Singapore but in practical terms they have failed even to return us back our old Karachi let alone making it Hong Kong..

PS: Whatever above is written based on my memories as I feel I do not have any record of above after such a long time.

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