An effective police force is critical to countering insurgency. In Pakistan, an understaffed and underequipped police force is increasingly called on to manage rising insecurity and militant violence. This report evaluates the obstacles to upgrading the existing police system and recommends traditional and innovative reform options, including major restructuring of the total civilian law enforcement infrastructure, without which the police force cannot be effectively improved.

Special Report: Reforming Pakistan‘s Police and Law Enforcement Infrastructure

Summary

  • An efficient, well-functioning police service is critical to counterinsurgency as well as counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan, now and in the future. At the same time, the police force must also address rising crime rates and a deteriorating law-and-order situation, among many other tasks.
  • The capacity of the Pakistan Police Service to deliver on all these fronts is severely diminished by political manipulation, the lack of forensic services, inadequate training and equipment, corruption, and weaknesses in the judicial sphere. Disconnect and lack of coordination between numerous kinds of policing and intelligence organizations are major hurdles on the path leading to collective strategizing.
  • Upgrading the existing police system as the central law enforcement institution in the country cannot occur in isolation, however. Instead, it must be part of an overarching restructuring of the total law enforcement infrastructure, including a reform of the criminal justice system and the stripping of politically motivated amendments from the Police Act of 2002. Both traditional and innovative reforms would be expected to bear fruit in this arena. With a high degree of public consensus on the need for far-reaching law enforcement reforms in Pakistan, there is political space to make tough, reform-oriented choices. Pro-reform circles within police are also gaining strength.

About the Report

An effective police force is critical to countering insurgency. In Pakistan, an understaffed and underequipped police force is increasingly called on to manage rising insecurity and militant violence. This report evaluates the obstacles to upgrading the existing police system and recommends traditional and innovative reform options, including major restructuring of the total civilian law enforcement infrastructure, without which the police force cannot be effectively improved. Because Pakistan’s police capacity has direct implications for the country’s ability to tackle terrorism, the United States and its allies would realize counterterrorism dividends by helping law enforcement efforts through modern training and technical assistance.

Professor Hassan Abbas holds the Quaid-i-Azam Chair at the South Asia Institute of Columbia University and is a senior adviser at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. His previous papers on the subject of police reforms in Pakistan were published by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and the Brookings Institution (both in Washington, D.C.) in 2009. He is also a Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the Asia Society, New York, where he is director of the Pakistan Study Group, which is developing “Pakistan 2020: A Vision for a Better Future and a Roadmap for Getting There.”

Related Publications

The Latest on Pakistan’s Floods: 3 Things You Need to Know

The Latest on Pakistan’s Floods: 3 Things You Need to Know

Friday, September 9, 2022

By: Jumaina Siddiqui

After experiencing its hottest months in decades this spring, Pakistan has been beset by torrential rains and deadly floods, leaving one-third of the country under water. While no country can be fully prepared for an environmental disaster of this magnitude, corruption and mismanagement have exacerbated the fallout. USIP’s Jumaina Siddiqui explains what makes Pakistan so vulnerable to climate change, how it can better prepare for extreme weather events and what the international community can do to help.

Type: Blog

Environment

Why Pakistan Is Drowning

Why Pakistan Is Drowning

Thursday, September 8, 2022

By: Sahar Khan;  Jumaina Siddiqui

Pakistan is currently experiencing one of the worst environmental disasters in the world. One-third of the country is under water. Over 1,325 people have died and 33 million have been impacted. The latest statistics show that over 1,600 have been injured, 325,000 homes destroyed, 735,000 livestock lost and 2 million acres of crops damaged — numbers which are likely to increase. According to a rough assessment by Atlantic Council’s Uzair Younus and economist Ammar Khan, the direct damage to roads, homes, livestock and crops is over $3 billion, which is an astronomical amount for a developing country like Pakistan.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Environment

Pakistan’s Deadly Floods Come Amid Deluge of Crises

Pakistan’s Deadly Floods Come Amid Deluge of Crises

Thursday, September 1, 2022

By: Tamanna Salikuddin;  Jumaina Siddiqui

After experiencing its hottest months in 61 years in April and May, Pakistan has been hit by a “monsoon season on steroids,” according to U.N. chief Antonio Guterres. Pakistan has long been considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world. Despite a history of intense floods, the country was ill-prepared for this year’s monsoon season. Intractable political and economic crises have hampered Pakistan’s capacity to address the ongoing fallout, particularly the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Environment

View All Publications