On August 23rd, 2022: Department of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at SESS organized a Book Launch of Insecure Guardians, a book by Dr. Zoha Waseem on August 23rd, 2022. Dr. Zoha Waseem talked about her book and engaged with the students.
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 socio-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.
Dr Zoha Waseem is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK. She is also co-coordinator for the Urban Violence Research Network, an international platform that connects researchers working on urban violence, security, and related areas. Her book manuscript Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing critically explores how security policies, and the interests of insecure states, influence the culture of policing in postcolonial contexts. She is broadly interested in the politics of policing and insecurity, informality, conflict, crime, and security. Her work has been published in the Journal of Urban Affairs, Policing and Society and the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Prior to joining Warwick, she was a research fellow at University College London, a teaching fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and a PhD candidate at King's College London. Before embarking upon an academic career, Zoha briefly worked for a few media platforms in Pakistan, including Geo, Dawn News, and Samaa TV.