ISLAMABAD: Increase in the age limit of CSS candidates opened a new window of opportunity for experienced, matured and people having international exposure to become the part of Civil Service of Pakistan, whereas this decision was an important milestone towards governance reforms in the country. Building on a legacy of 57 years of partnering for governance reforms in Pakistan, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms (MoPDR) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the ‘Reform and Innovation in Government for High Performance’ programme last year, under MoPDR’s Vision 2025.The programme focuses on a number of initiatives seeking to build capacity and improve performance in the public sector while strengthening the relationship between the government and citizens, as prioritised by the Vision 2025. The programme has conducted extensive research and analysis as well as a series of consultations culminating in the Governance Forum 2015, held in December, last year. These consultations engaged hundreds of civil servants, political leaders, civil society representatives, academics and journalists to shape the reform agenda, with the active participation of the Establishment Division, Finance Division, Federal Public Services Commission and the National School of Public Policy.This agenda included proposals to introduce a pre-exam screening test to raise the quality of applications and reduce error-rate in processing them; allowing specialised group intakes to rationalise career-paths; and raising the age-ceiling for Central Superior Services (CSS) applicants to facilitate the entry of more mature, experienced and qualified recruits. The proposal was approved by the Federal Cabinet on July 15, 2016, sanctioning an increase in upper age limit from 28 to 30 years for the candidates of CSS exams. It is hoped that the reform would help in attracting candidates with prior work experience in the private sector, or those who have studied and worked abroad.Such aspirants, if selected, would be able to offer fresh perspectives, ideas and capabilities to the public sector. Similarly, in some areas of Pakistan, poverty and lack of educational facilities mean holding back talented candidates who fail to complete their required 16 years of schooling by the time they are 28. Increasing the upper age limit to 30 years would promote inclusiveness and equality of opportunity across geographical and socio-economic divides, by ensuring these youth shave a level playing field to compete.Earlier, the Senate had already proposed the same and asked the government to increase age limit for CSS exam candidates, as the Upper House received number of requests by students through Public Petition System launched by Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabani.The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms had submitted a comprehensive policy in this regard for the first time in March 2016, but it was rejected by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on grounds that it was an unnecessary favour for the youth. The PM office had also objected that it would create problems in existing service structure.Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms member (Governance) Dr Syed Tahir Hijazi, while talking to the Daily Times, has said, “After rejection of the summary from the PM, the ministry once again submitted the proposal with additional arguments to explain the positives of the decision, which was accepted by the Federal Cabinet.”While commenting on the decision, Dr Sarfraz Hussain Ansari said, “The decision will lead positive outcomes as now the students can appear in CSS exam with full preparation.” He further suggested that the government should enhance education level to get appear in the CSS exam as it would help include academically strong students in the civil service of Pakistan.The students, teachers and young professionals lauded the government’s step and praised Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal over his continuous efforts for making it possible.