Change in Policing culture of Pakistan: Lessons for American Militarized Policing


The capacity of police to both prevent and provoke conflict is increasingly recognized all around the world. In recent political turmoils in Pakistan the role of Pakistan police has been really apprecaitive. Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) & Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led anti government marches towards the capital city Islamabad. These marchers have entered the Red Zone which has been considered the most secured area in the country as it hosts number of important government offices alnogside it is the diplomatic enclave. These marches have turned the twin cities of Rawalpindi and islamabad into containers walled cities. As government claims that these containers have been placed to prevent any untoward incident in the cities and for the protection of the public. Islamabadis the capital of Pakistan, and is the tenth largest city in Pakistan. The Rawalpindi/Islamabad metropolitan area is the third largest in Pakistan with a population of over 4.5 million inhabitants, 1.5 million in Islamabad and three million in Rawalpindi. City dewellers are suffering because of these security hurdles on daily basis.It is none the less a human crisis as at times critical paitents are denied access to hospitals due to thess obsticles in the twin cities thus losing their lives on roads. So far it has become a life style in Pakistan’s current security environment where the country is still fighting its internal war in tribal areas of waziristan along with the global war on terror in the whole country. Security forces of Pakistan have suffered innumerable lossses in the wake of the terrorist activities. Pakistan Police is no exception to these losses.In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 566 police gave their lives between January 1, 2004, and April 2010. Among the fallen, ten were senior officers, 92 junior officers, and 464 were either constables or head constables. The worst year in that period was 2009, when a superintendent, three deputy superintendents, 57 other senior officers and 138 constables were killed.

Police has always been criticised in Pakistan although some policemen have been displaying extraordinary courage and even sacrificing their lives to the call of duty, other heinous crimes. The police force can potentially play a vital role in providing the much needed security environment for peaceful social, political and economic development. A well-resourced, well-trained, professional and accountable police is vital to improving the quality governance and bringing about greater public trust in the state. On the other hand, a poorly maintained police force that is also misused for both partisan politics and criminal ends will lead to further deterioration in law and order and internal security environment. In Pakistan, unfortunately, citizens grievances against police brutality, highhandedness and corruption are fairly common. Given its colonial tradition, repressive culture and lack of public trust, the police enjoy little credibility among the general public.

Not surprisingly, the issue of police accountability remains a point of concern in Pakistan, given the excessive powers and discretion in the hands of police officers. Accountability is vitally important with regard to police officers because of their powers to use coercive force in enforcing the law. Effective accountability is needed to transform police behavior, based on a deep-rooted culture of repression, into a service-oriented role and to promote mutual confidence between police and the public. The success of police requires public cooperation and support, which is not possible without credibility and faith in the police accountability system – that is still lacking in Pakistan.

As a research scholar working on social accountability of police in Pakistan I have always envied the great models of democratic policing in the US. These ideals were as great as the idea of an American dream. The recent sad stories of police brutalities during racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri was indeed a great shock for most of us who have always viewed the American society more prone to human rights. Military style policing is an alarming phenomina in greater democracies like the US. It is indeed an eye opener for the democratic institutions and human rights activits of the US from whose sight the whole issue of military style policing remained hidden or they have not estimated the costs they have to pay for in shape of publiic unrest and resentment.The military style police in the US has created human crisis. Police should be well equipped but with responsibility and answerability. President Obama has ordered examination intoa review of the distribution of military hardware to state and local police out of concern at how such equipment has been used during racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri is a good step. There is still greater need to monitor and make the police accountable incase of use of force against the public.

Pakistan police has always been criticised for its corruption and misuse of power at the behest of politicians. During the recent sit-ins in the capital around forty thounsand police personnels have been requisitioned  from Gilgit Baltistan (GB),Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Punjab Police who alongwith the Capital Territory Police and other law enforcing agencies are performing their duties deligently. These policemen are under equipped and less trained as compared to the American police.They lack modern techniques and weapons. There is no social security mechanism for the police personnel. They lack basic facilities and face dual pressures from the government and the public. The only weapon that they may hold is a Lathi (stick) and shield that has not been used for the last twelve days in the sit-ins despite mounting tensions between the protesters and the law enforcers.Mutal tolrence and respect of the marchers and police is really comendable to see in the recent political movements by PTI & PAT in the country.

As a matter of fact that the  incident that provided fodder for protests to Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) was the killing of 14 PAT workers and over 100 people were injured when police clashed with PAT workers on June 17, 2014 in front of Tahirul Qadri’s residence in Model Town, Lahore. PAT has acccussed and held the punjab government responsible for the sad incident in which innocent people lost their lives. Like past the whole responsibility was thrown on police and government has repeatidly denied the charges. This dismil situation led to confrontation between police and PAT workers even upon arrival of PAT’s leader Tahir-ul-Qadri in Pakistan.In these incidents PAT workers had brutally tortured punjab policemen out of revenge. These facts are based on media reports and may also differ from the reality. PAT has asked for interrogation and presently High court has ordered to file a case against Prime Minister, Chief Minister Punjab and 21 others involved in the incident. Despite all this that has happened between the PAT workers and Police during the recent marches no resistence has been shwon by the police till now.The marchers and the police on duty are accomodating for each oher in the wake of conflict. PTI’s women workers have marked history by showering rose petals on police personnels when the were entering the Red Zone or forbidden zone in our context. It is very truly said that love begets love and the same has been proved here that If you behave lovingly to police, they will behave lovingly to you.

According to media reports in the recent turmoil Islamabad police has asked for written orders for any type of crack down against the protesters of PAT & PTI. This is a real change in the policing culture of Pakistan as in the most recent past police has done everything odered by the government.Most of the time political government use police as a force to sub due their opponents.This culture is changing from this very initiative of the police during these sit ins.The role of media is really apprciative in this regard who has shown the reality to the public and supported the public and police to move in the right direction. The role of the political parties and even the government is appreciative who have asked the both to restrain from any aggressive act at any cost. Prime Minister has ordered the police to be accomodating and respectful towards the marchers and the same has been reciprocated by the people. Respect and honor for others has always created fruitful results as it is evident from the recent political situation in the country in which the police and public has agreed to work together irrespective of their ideologies.It is really amazing case in the political and policing history of Pakistan where police has some how appread with a public service oriented role. Conflicts can only be resolved through discussions and dialogues. It is high time to negotiate with each other to avoid any human tragedy like model town lahore and Ferguson, Missouri  through talks not through force. Let the police serve people and create a peaceful world.