Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi w/ Zoha Waseem
Join Insecure Guardians author Zoha Waseem for an in-depth conversation about the policing practices of an insecure state, foregrounding the experiences of officers on the frontline of Pakistan’s armed conflicts.
The police force is one of the most distrusted institutions in Pakistan, notorious for its corruption and brutality. In both colonial and postcolonial contexts, directives to confront security threats have empowered law enforcement agents, while the lack of adequate reform has upheld institutional weaknesses.
This exploration of policing in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and financial capital, reveals many colonial continuities. Both civilian and military regimes continue to ensure the suppression of the policed via this institution, itself established to militarily subjugate and exploit in the interests of the ruling class. However, contemporary policing practice is not a simple product of its colonial heritage: it has also evolved to confront new challenges and political realities.
Based on extensive fieldwork and around 200 interviews, this ethnographic study reveals a distinctly ‘postcolonial condition of policing’. Mutually reinforcing phenomena of militarisation and informality have been exacerbated by an insecure state that routinely conflates combatting crime, maintaining public order and ensuring national security. This is evident not only in spectacular displays of violence and malpractice, but also in police officers’ routine work. Caught in the middle of the country’s armed conflicts, their encounters with both state and society are a story of insecurity and uncertainty.
About the author
Dr Zoha Waseem is an Assistant Professor in Criminology at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick. She is also Co-Coordinator for the Urban Violence Research Network, which is an international platform that connects researchers and academics working on urban violence, security, and related issues.
She is author of the book, Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi. She is currently researching on the politics and governance of policing, the geopolitics of security, the impact of urban transformations on public and private policing, and counterinsurgency in Pakistan.
About the chair
Christophe Jaffrelot is Avantha Chair and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King’s India Institute and also the Research Lead for the Global Institutes, King’s College London. He teaches South Asian politics and history at Sciences Po, Paris and is an Overseas Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was Director of Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po, between 2000 and 2008.
Dr Mahvish Ahmad is an Assistant Professor in Human Rights and Politics at the London School of Economics. She is currently working on two monographs investigating shifting modalities of state violence in Balochistan, a southern Pakistani province, and the making and unmaking of the worlds of those who have been targeted in disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and army operations.
Dr Kieran Mitton is a Reader in Conflict, Security and Development at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, where he is also Research Director of the Conflict, Security & Development Research Group (CSDRG), co-Chair of the Africa Research Group.RSVP