Zoha Waseem, "Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi" (Oxford UP, 2022)


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.

Zoha Waseem an Assistant Professor in Criminology at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick. She also Co-Coordinator for the Urban Violence Research Network (UVRN), an international platform connecting academics and researchers working on urban violence and related issues. Her research interests include policing, security/insecurity, armed violence, counterinsurgency, informality, militarisation, and migration in Pakistan, South Asia, and beyond.

Deniz Yonucu is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology at Newcastle University. Her work focuses on counterinsurgency, policing and security, surveillance, left-wing and anti-colonial resistance, memory, racism, and emerging digital control technologies. Her book, Police, Provocation, Politics Counterinsurgency in Istanbul (Cornell University Press, 2022), presents a counterintuitive analysis of policing, focusing particular attention on the incitement of counterviolence and perpetual conflict by state security apparatus.

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Deniz Yonucu

Deniz Yonucu is a Lecturer in Sociology at the School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology, Newcastle University and the author of Police, Provocation, Politics Counterinsurgency in Istanbul (Cornell University Press, 2022).
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