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Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Urban policing in Pakistan: Effects and challenges

Efficient and effective law enforcement is the fundamental sign of good governance therefore urban policing is an important aspect of it. The advent of globalization and the resultant urbanization has also laid obligations on policing to be more proactive in Pakistan. Urban policing is deemed so challenging because of the varied dynamics on the ground.

Effective law enforcement is the fundamental sign of good governance. Thus, policing in the 21st century is expected to be more responsive and dynamic to the changing nature of the community. Urban policing is deemed so challenging because of the varied dynamics on the ground. The urban areas are significantly the political, economic, and cultural centers in a country which are crucial hubs for regional or international commerce and connectivity.

The securitization of key political infrastructure viz. provincial assemblies, secretariats, High Courts, etc, and the existence of tourists and embassies in the metropolis signifies the importance of policing in the urban areas. Moreover, due to growing industrialization, these urban centers are the major sources of national and foreign investments. Thus, these are the sensitive areas that can make or break the nation. A single event can shake the entire nation and can cause a substantial loss not only to the nation but also to the global economy.

Read more: Policing Dilemma: Reform or control?

The key challenge in urban policing is the growing urbanization

Admittedly, the varied nature of urban areas creates avenues for different types of financial crimes like tax evasion, banking fraud, and money laundering which disturb the financial eco-system and harm the overall banking regime. Due to women’s integration in the urban economy, cases pertaining to workplace harassment are also widely reported. The urban structure also creates space for organized crime in urban areas like drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion rackets, tanker mafia, price manipulators, etc. The increasing pace of modernization also results in enhancement of the digital traffic which invariably increases cybercrime in these areas.

The population explosion including the floating population in cities across Pakistan has made policing more complex. Pakistan has the highest urbanized population in South Asia which is projected to be 335 million by 2050. Quite sadly, the growing statistics of urbanization do not commensurate with the strength of Law Enforcing Agencies at the place. The burgeoning population paves a way for encroachments and shortage of parking spaces which eventually end up with chaotic traffic situations. The absence of reasonable mass transport creates a gap that is filled by ride-hailing companies like Uber, Careem, and Bykea. Resultantly, the frequent clogging of roads compromises road safety which also comes under the domain of urban policing.

Contrary to the popular belief, policing is much more challenging in Pakistan. The crime committed is not an event, but a process for an investigation officer. There is a due procedure of law that has to be followed. Investigation Wing is supposed to handle the entire case from First Responder’s call to submission of Final Report under section 173 of CrPC. However, it is a stark reality that police in Pakistan are largely under-resourced and under-equipped. The fuel allowance for police mobiles is very low for the extent of patrolling duties, and the prolonged work hours do not commensurate with pay packages. Thus, to fill this vacuum, steps are underway to make policing more equipped and resourceful.

Read more: Strategic police reforms in Pakistan: latest developments in years 2019-20

Technology surrounds every aspect of our lives

Keeping in view the significance of digitalization, successive governments have undertaken ambitious initiatives to digitalize policing and streamline police-public relations. Currently, the Punjab police are championing the implementation of policing based on computerization. As against the conventional way of colonial policing, digitalization has minimized the probability of human error to a great extent. The practices of geo-fencing, data analysis, polygraph tests have made the tracing of criminals much easier. Resultantly, the investigation and conviction rate have been bettered.

Criminals today are being photographed and fingerprinted, and the crime scenes are being processed through devices and criminal database is being maintained using computer desks. This shows an extraordinary picture of policing of which the majority of the public is unaware.

Moreover, the positive role of the police has captured attention globally. According to Number, Islamabad is the second safest city in South Asia with a safety index of 70.85. The recent Rabta Campaign led by Islamabad police and the establishment of Gender Protection Units are steps taken to narrow down the citizen-police trust deficit. The formation of the Dolphin Force in Punjab and Rollerblade Force in Sindh to curb street crimes speaks volumes of developments. Unlike the restiveKarachi back in the 2010s, today’s Karachi is more peaceful.

Read more: Designing police reforms: The latest police reforms in the US

It is an established fact that the world is getting so advanced

For instance, by just scanning the car number plate parked anywhere by using the advanced handheld devices, the police officer is now able to know the owner of the car, his identification, his air travel history, and any criminal record, etc. All the immigration records can now easily be integrated and linked to the CNIC number.

The Ministry of Interior can embark upon a computerization program for all provinces by creating a ‘Dash Board’ for each citizen which each citizen should also access for information such as his driving license, car registration, tax due date, etc. However, these purported suggestions may largely sound aspirational at present, but the establishment of the Safe City projects in Islamabad and Lahore establishes the fact that such ambitious initiatives have already been carried out in Pakistan.

Read more: Police reforms for speedy justice: CJP orders immediate implementation

However, in the end, the locus of the struggle cannot just be the law enforcing agencies; instead, this struggle may be led in unison by creating a close partnership between police and community, then and then we make Pakistan a crime-free society.


The writer is an Officer in Federal Investigation Agency, Hyderabad. He can be reached atmasdshaikh527@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.