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Road to CSS


A group of four bureaucrats teams up to give CSS lessons to youths dreaming of careers in the civil service

It is indeed very puzzling that students from the urban cities of Sindh like Karachi, Hyderabad, and Sukkur are reluctant to appear in the Central Superior Services (CSS) examination despite the fact that the literacy rates of these cities is also comparatively higher than the rest of the country. The reason, they argue, is that the quota allocated to the urban areas is 7.6 per cent, so it is futile to appear for the CSS examination.

The implementation of the quota system in the public sector in the 1970s continues to discourage the urban youths from aspiring to join the CSS due to very tough competition which requires professional coaching, proper training and special grooming. As a result, the youth from the middle and lower-middle classes who still dream of joining the coveted and prestigious government service could not afford the hefty preparation fees charged by private academies.  The hefty fees charged by commercial institutes range from Rs80,000 to Rs150,000 per person for a four-month preparatory package.

On the other hand, very low passing ratio in the written test also discourages students from taking the CSS examination. Only around 2pc of candidates pass the written test. The written test is conducted in English and as such the candidates with poor written English cannot clear the exam. The candidates fail to develop the required command over the language and grammar because of very poor quality of teaching in the schools and colleges they attend, with the exception of expensive institutions which of course people from the middle and lower-middle class just cannot afford.

Moreover, the questions in the CSS exams require the candidates to take a stand and present convincing arguments to prove their point. Those coming from not so privileged backgrounds also lack the confidence required to answer the specific questions in their respective subjects through examples, facts, and figures. Most students write irrelevant stuff which leads them to failure. They also lack critical and analytical thinking skills because they do not read relevant books as there is a dearth of guidance.

To tackle this, a group of three seasoned administrative and police service bureaucrats — Taha Saleem, deputy commissioner Karachi (central), Syed Tariq Mustafa, commonwealth UK and DIG Police Maqsood Ahmed — are running a 100pc free CSS preparatory programme known as CSS Corner. They founded an institution which is composed of two academies located within the Frere Hall Library and the Islamic centre, Markaz al-Islami, in Federal B Area. The CSS Corner offers opportunities to the youths belonging to the middle class to crystalise their dream of becoming a commissioner, a police chief or an ambassador.


These institutions have been, for the past one year, offering four-month-long training courses to the CSS aspirants free of cost. So far 20 candidates have succeeded in the exams of the Superior Services. The successful students after completion of their training in Lahore, have joined various federal departments in the capacity of CSS officers. More are in the process of joining the superior services of the country. Those who have joined the Civil Services Academy, Lahore say that they owe their achievements to the CSS Corner.

Both the centres of the CSS Corner have so far registered over 1,000 students. The classes are held in two sessions. Any person irrespective of the social status, family background and domicile eligible to appear in the CSS examination can come to the corner and get themselves registered. The classes for the 2023 examination began late last month.  It just happened that this reporter met Syed Tariq Mustafa during a visit to Frere Hall Library. IBA Karachi and

Cambridge University educated Mustafa is a very Senior Civil Servant. He belongs to Karachi and has

served in federal as well as provincial governments in various important positions all over Pakistan. He is

currently working on a Commonwealth Project. I asked him how it all started. He said that it all started at the end of 2020 by the collective efforts of the then administrator of KMC Iftikhar Shallwani, Taha

Saleem then director general Parks KMC, and himself. Shallwani after taking over as administrator Karachi alongwith his colleagues visited Frere Hall


Gardens. The Frere Hall Library was closed for the past four years for some unexplainable reasons, probably by the Guardian Board. Shallwani saw two young boys sitting on a broken chair and table busy in their studies. When asked what they were doing here they said that they were preparing for the CSS examination. The high spirit of these boys impressed them and they decided to help them out and that’s how it all started.

The two bureaucrats persuaded their other colleagues and they agreed to join them. They not only agreed to teach them the textbooks’ matter, but also trained them for viva voce, which is the next step after a candidate qualifies the written test of the examination. In short, they offer a complete package for all those who come from the middle and lower-middle class families and just cannot afford to pay heavy sum demanded by the private training centres, including government-sponsored CSS coaching centre at Karachi University.

To a question, he said that since those who join this centre come from lower-middle class families and that too from far-flung areas of the metropolis, all the students who qualify for the written test require further coaching so that they are fully trained to appear in viva voce and psychological tests as per the requirements of the CSS examination. They are even imparted training on how to dress for the interview and since all these are conducted by senior bureaucrats their results are very encouraging, he added.

He said the journey started at the end of 2020 with the cooperation and assistance of the then administrator of KMC Iftikhar Shallwani and Taha Saleem, DC Central and some other likeminded civil servants.

Despite the complex method of the examination, youths in the provincial capital have started showing a growing interest in joining the civil services. The credit of course, goes to the group of four who had set up the CSS Corner.

Speaking about this programme, Tariq Mustafa said that during his visit to the park he saw some students coming as far as from Hyderabad and other far-flung areas to study in a peaceful surrounding with a dream of becoming a civil servant. So a plan was presented to the then city administrator Shallwani, who gave his permission to set up an academy at the Frere Hall Library.  At present, the two centres have a combined seating capacity of 180 students, while 142 students are currently enrolled and preparing for their CSS exams. A majority of these students, especially females, come from Federal B Area, Landhi, Korangi, Azizabad, New Karachi, North Karachi, Baldia Town, North Nazimabad, Garden and Lyari.


All courses relating to the examination are taught at the CSS Corner by a voluntary staff of some 100 teachers, including current and former CSS officers and subjects’ experts. Renowned diplomat Zafar Hilaly, Iftikhar Shallwani and Tariq Mustafa are also among the institution’s esteemed lecturers.

In addition to that, they have also signed a MoU with the Saylani Welfare Trust to set up more such centres in the city.  The students enrolled at the two academies also seem to show great trust in the institution. “It doesn’t look like free education is being provided here. The teachers teach us with sincerity, which is encouraging for the aspirants”, expressed a student.

Similarly, another student at the centre said that the teachers’ commitment is reflected in the fact that they continue to take their classes even when the number of students is low. “They also provide individual attention to struggling students. The private academies on the other hand, charge an arm and a leg, and in comparison, this centre is a gift for the city’s youth”, he opined.

Abdul Qadeer, a Masters in English from Sargodha University, currently serving in Pakistan Navy, applauded the efforts of these bureaucrats towards providing free preparation of CSS exams in the city. The quota system introduced in the 1970s had changed the face of the city and a large number of citizens had stopped taking the CSS exams. But the CSS Corner will definitely benefit the youths, he expressed.

The District Central DC expressed gratitude to the Saylani Welfare Trust, the Special Security Unit of the Sindh Police, and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation for extending cooperation for running the free-of-charge coaching facility.



photos: Bol News


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