The Problem With Pakistan’s Police

by Mahar Murrawat Hussain in Dawn: “You are men and women of violence,” proclaims Dave Grossman, a retired military officer, to eager police trainees in the award-winning documentary Do Not Resist. One wonders if he draws his inspiration from the policing tactics so infamously practised in Pakistan, where such a declaration seems less an instruction and more a statement of fact.

While everyone in Pakistan has long been aware of the police culture in vogue in the country, the post-May 9, 2023 posturing of the police gave a rude awakening to a large chunk of the citizenry because, this time round, even those belonging to the affluent class were exposed to a brand of policing thus far reserved only for the poor and downtrodden — ‘militarised policing.’

According to criminal justice expert Peter Kraska, ‘militarised policing’ is a policing style that “increasingly draws from and patterns around the tenets of militarism and the military model.” In Pakistan, this has manifested in the widespread adoption of military tactics and an organisational structure that emphasises force and domination, particularly towards the powerless and marginalised segments of society. The events of May last year stirred up a national debate, and the long-interred topic of police reforms was soon disinterred.

As a result, multiple articles and opinions appeared in national dailies, wherein writers sought to identify the wrong and recommended measures to cure the malaise. What these articles, mostly authored by retired police officers, had in common was that almost every piece ascribed the streak of violence perpetrated by the police force in the aftermath of the unfortunate events of May 9, 2023 to the politicisation of the force and argued for depoliticisation.

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