Policing Strategies and Police Reforms in Pakistan


Policing Strategies and Police Reforms in Pakistan

Police reforms have been a part of larger governance discourse in Pakistan over the years. Over three dozen initiatives/reports/commissions have produced wealth of knowledge in the domain that has contributed towards basic literature on police reforms in the country. The thrust of these reforms’ material, on analysis, will reveal that their focus has been on organizational issues. This emphasis is based on the assumption that a well-planned and efficiently-governed police organization will produce professional, independent and specialized police service that will serve the citizens in the best possible manner. While these efforts are charitable, one area that has not received much attention in these reports is the discussion on operational strategies that would be practiced by the police organizations. This is not without reason. In fact, without an independent and professional organization, the discussion on operational strategies that it will likely follow is not worth centrality. Besides, the operational strategies of police cannot substitute their basic functions of crime-prevention and crime-detection. Anyhow, owing to increasing discussion on operational policing strategies, there is a need to examine these operational policing strategies and to comment on their relevance, if any, to Pakistan. Chief strategies are discussed hereunder:

  1. Community Policing

According to a report titled as “Understanding Community Policing: A Framework for Action (1994), published by Bureau of Justice Assistance, the idea of community policing emanated out of Peelian Principles that laid the foundation of policing by consent in the English-speaking world. Sir Robert Peel, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, expressed these nine principles in the form of ‘instructions’ to Metropolitan Police Service of London when he was serving as Home Secretary (Minister for Interior in comparison to Pakistan) in 1829. These principles have assumed cardinal significance and are part of police training curriculum worldwide, especially in Commonwealth countries. The principle that enunciated community policing is reproduced here for ready reference:

“Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”Internet crime concept.

The idea of community policing is considered a part of legal framework of Pakistan’s police organizations that follow the Punjab Police Rules, 1934 (Police Rules), which were promulgated under section 12 of the Police Act, 1861. These Police Rules have been adopted by all subsequent police laws including the Police Order, 2002, the Balochistan Police Act, 2011, the KP Police Act, 2017 (which amended some rules) and the Sindh Police (Repeal of the Police Act, 1861 and Revival of Police Order, 2002) Amendment Act, 2019. Rule 21.1 of these Police Rules states:

“The Criminal law of India and the Police organization, which is based upon it, are both founded on the principle that public order depends essentially upon the responsibility of every member of the community within the law to prevent offences and to arrest offenders.”

The Police Order, 2002, had built on the concept of community policing and had tried to institutionalize the concept through public safety commissions at district, provincial and national levels. The concept, however, never saw full implementation as it was supportive of democratic securitization and was likely to strengthen the local government system. Community policing requires identification of a ‘community’ with which police leadership can work. Perhaps, this was the reason that implementation of Police Order, 2002, was deferred and made contingent upon the implementation of local government system in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) in 2002 under article 1(3) of Police Order, 2002. In absence of local government, the ‘community’ is simply not there and every police officer tries to partner with community that he identifies after his own screening methods, which makes the community policing unsustainable in the long run. ‘Thikri Pehra’, neighbourhood watch, organizing local watchmen and Public Conciliatory Committees (PCC) concept in the ICT are but some examples of community policing in Pakistan.  Nevertheless, it is believed that the concept is very powerful and is likely to help in crime-prevention, image-building and dispute-resolution. Additionally, it may be used to implement strategies to deal with gender-based violence (GBV) and juvenile delinquency. 

  1. Intelligence-led Policing

The Police Chief Magazine, in an essay titled as ‘Intelligence Led Policing: Changing the Face of Crime Prevention (2018)’, defined ILP as:

“[A] collaborative law enforcement combing problem-solving policing, information-sharing, and police accountability, with enhanced intelligence operations.”

The idea of ILP hinges on the concept of ‘intelligence’, which is a product of information and analysis. In mathematical terms, it is explained as information plus analysis. The intelligence is then categorized into different types that include operational intelligence, strategic intelligence, evidential intelligence and tactical intelligence. ILPs origins are traced to the United Kingdom. In 1993, in the UK, ILP was first used by Kent Constabulary when it had to work out more cases with less resources. Perhaps, this is the reason that ILP was also once called Kent Policing Model. In post 9/11 world, the ILP captured attention of many an American police organization. They used fusion centres to collect, collate, analyze and disseminate intelligence to police organizations; these fusion centres now serve as clearing67875058_2298858533558960_2849378379017224192_o

houses for intelligence dissemination and result in kinetic actions based in rule-of-law paradigm of internal security in preventing crime. It is also considered a precursor of predictive policing in the age of big data, information technology and internet of things. Pakistan’s police organizations have been largely using human intelligence in their working especially in countering terrorism. They regularly use the concept of Intelligence-based Operations (IBOs) where multi-agency efforts are made to take action on intelligence against terrorists. Legally speaking, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, provides for two ways in which intelligence can be used by police for counter terrorism. On the preventive side, police organizations can use the concept of joint interrogation teams (JITs) with intelligence agencies (under section 11-EEEE of ATA) to prevent terrorist acts; on the detection side, police organizations usually use the JIT mechanism (under section 19 of ATA) to investigate major anti-terrorism cases.

  1. Problem-oriented Policing

The problem-oriented policing (POP) is another fashionable policing strategy with larger footprint in use in the United States. Prof. Herman Goldstein of the Wisconsin Law School propounded it as:

“Problem-oriented policing places a high value on new responses that are preventive in nature, that are not dependent on the use of the criminal justice system, and that engage other public agencies, the community and the private sector when their involvement has the potential for significantly contributing to the reduction of the problem.”spy_PNG32

Herman identified ‘policing problems’ after using his very rigorous SARA (Scanning, Analyzing, Responding and Assessing) model. He developed strategies to prevent the problems before these could occur. Pakistan can learn a lot from the POP, but the legal framework of the country is not supportive of such an approach. In a highly turf-ridden and legalistic environment, the initiative of POP has limited utility. Even so, police officers often resort to POP with their fellow colleagues.

  1. Broken-Windows Policing

The Economist magazine, in 2015, explained in an information box, what is ‘Broken Windows’ policing, in the following words:

“…Approach to law enforcement based on the theory that cracking down on minor crimes helps to prevent major ones…”.

In 1982, two academicians George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, wrote an influential article with the title ‘Broken Windows’ in a local newspaper—Atlantic. They explained, inter alia, that crime surveys do not measure communal losses; they used the analogy of a physician who recognizes fostering health instead of just treating an illness. They opined that like the physician, the police ought ‘to maintain communities without broken windows’. The policing strategy of broken windows remained controversial as it was very intrusive and had involved police in almost everything and resulted in very aggressive law-enforcement on minor offences. Ultimately, Kelling, one of the enunciators of the policing strategy warned and told everyone to back away from the approach. In 2016, he stated the following to the National Public Radio (NPR):

“It’s to the point now where I wonder if we should back away from the metaphor of broken windows.”

His comments prompted the following comment on the policing strategy:

“The story of broken windows is a story of our fascination with easy fixes and seductive theories. Once an idea like that takes hold, it’s nearly impossible to get the genie back in the bottle.”

In Pakistan, the evidence of unconscious application of ‘Broken Windows’ policing can be seen in the domain of anti-terrorism domain generally. 

  1. Public-Private Partnership

Public-private partnership (PPP) is considered part of New Public Management (NPM) that believes in leveraging private sector’s potential for public-sector functions. Due to increasing debt problems in Pakistan, PPP is now part of most of the public-sector trainings and public policies. Owing to its importance, all the four provinces and the federal government enacted dedicated PPP laws that provide for procurement mechanism through such partnerships. The police used it unconsciously in 1993 when the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) in Karachi was established through an executive notification by the office of the then-Governor Sindh, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim (late). The CPLC is a classic example of PPP in Pakistan. It involved select community of businessmen who were threatened by high rate of kidnapping for ransom in Karachi city. They partnered with police to help them procure computers to share and analyze information and data on real-time basis. The CPLC Karachi project won many accolades due to its success. The concept became so popular that article 168 of the Police Order, 2002, provided the legal basis for it, enabling police to undertake more projects in the domain.

  1. Evidence-based Policing

The evidence-based policing (EBP) is being advocated by Prof. Sherman Lawrence of Cambridge University, UK. He implores that all decisions of the police management should be taken on the basis of evidence. EBP, in practice, has been fully sanctioned by Pakistan’s law and, in this connection, the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered a very authoritative judgement in Sughran Bibi case, requiring police to arrest accused only after collection of evidence. The judgement is very useful and is likely to define police strategies in coming years and lay solid foundations for EBP in the country. 

  1. E-Policing

Whatever is the terminology of e-policing, e.g. digital policing, information technology-based policing or data-driven policing, the concept is very popular the world over. Pakistan is no exception. The path to e-policing has to be based on the rule of law given the fact that Pakistan is a constitutional democracy. In his experience, the author had drafted and got enacted the first law titled as the Punjab Safe City Act, 2016, on the subject in the country. Later, a draft law for the safe city project of ICT was also prepared by him. The purpose of the draft law was to entitle the project to permanent budgeting and to increase its legitimacy and legality in terms of an entity that can collect legal grade evidence. It has been observed that many sub-units in police organizations in Pakistan are developing their own applications as beta versions at unreliable platforms without planning for interoperability of these applications and without examining cybersecurity aspects of such initiatives. In coming years, the e-policing strategy is likely to face many challenges, which may include use of technology for investigations, regulation of media and content management on social media platforms, deference to sandbox frameworks for innovations and protocols for data protection and sharing in terms of article 14 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

  1. Reassurance Policing

The term ‘Reassurance Policing’ was coined by an American Charles Bahn in his influential article ‘The Reassurance Factor in Police Patrol’ in 1974. The concept is considered a variant of community policing and neighbourhood policing. Bahn had explained Reassurance in the following words:

“[T]he feelings of safety and security that a citizen experiences when he sees a police officer or police patrol car nearby.”

Though the concept originated in the United States, it got widespread acceptance in the UK where it found its place in official Public Service Agreement (PSA). Since then, it has been in policing research and police organizations to craft policies to measure and practice it. There are two key features of reassurance policing: (a) visibility and (b) accessibility. It also got reflected as a standard performance assessment tool for a police organization’s performance in the UK. In its latest form, it emphasis on ‘sense of security’ as per training flyer of the UK College of Policing. In practice, it targets ‘signal’ crimes that are likely to damage community’s sense of security. The concept can be of much use to Pakistan. The police officers in Pakistan have been targeting ‘signal’ crimes in their jurisdictions and have tried to curb those through whatever legal and operational ammunition at their command. However, the concept has yet to attain centrality in police policy discourse in Pakistan.


With no final word on dynamic and ever-evolving police operational strategies, the foregoing survey of conceptual landscape may help policymakers to study different aspects of policing in Pakistan. The strategies may be carefully marshalled to the changing realities defined by rapid urbanization, demand for constitutionalism from civil administrations, increasing judicalization of administrative processes, emerging typologies of crime and international law requirements to implement robust anti-money laundering and countering-terrorism financing measures.


The author is an independent researcher

and has done his BCL from the University of Oxford. Email: kamranadilpsp@gmail.com


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