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Effective Policing is Key to Fighting Terrorism in Pakistan

A Pakistani policeman stands guard at a security check point in Lahore, February 2012. (Arif Ali/AFPGetty Images)

A Pakistani policeman stands guard at a security check point in Lahore, February 2012. (Arif Ali/AFPGetty Images)

By Hassan Abbas

An efficient, well-functioning civilian police service is critical to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan now and in the future. At the same time, in order to improve its public image and credibility, Pakistan’s police force must work to address rising crime rates and the deteriorating law-and-order situation. Over the past year, I have been directing an Asia Society project focused on these issues as well as other related security challenges facing Pakistan, with an eye toward evaluating the country’s potential for police reform.

Throughout this process, I have been traveling to various parts of Pakistan to conduct interviews with police officials and law enforcement experts. Based on these interactions, Asia Society established an independent commission comprised of 19 leading experts in Pakistan and the United States to think through ways to strengthen security sector reform efforts. Commission members, including some of Pakistan’s most senior and renowned police officers, are drawing on their extensive policing experiences in the country to offer analyses and recommendations on a range of topics related to security sector reform.

Asia Society will release the project’s culminating report in July 2012, with launch events scheduled in New York (July 24); Washington, D.C. (July 25); and Pakistan (dates to be confirmed). The report assesses the current state of Pakistan’s police force, puts forward recommendations for enhancing the institutional capacity needed to check the growth of organized crime and effectively conduct counterterrorism operations throughout the country, and suggests metrics to best gauge success and progress. Various models and their relevance to the situation in Pakistan are also explored.

Here is a preview of some preliminary findings:

  • The law enforcement infrastructure in Pakistan is outmoded and new laws need major revisions.
  • International funds for counterterrorism are mainly directed to the country’s military, while funding for the police force remains woefully inadequate.
  • The lack of coordination among key law enforcement agencies, intelligence services, and the military poses major challenges.
  • Recruitment and training standards need a major overhaul. Police officials acknowledge inadequacies in these areas, but the political will to institute change is missing.
  • Law enforcement sector reform in Indonesia and Turkey provide potential models for Pakistan, while successes achieved by Pakistan’s Motorway Police indicate that change is possible.
  • Given that an improvement in police capacity has direct implications for Pakistan’s ability to tackle terrorism, the United States and its allies can advance their own counterterrorism goals by providing training and technical assistance to Pakistan’s law enforcement sector.

For more information about the Asia Society Independent Commission on Pakistan Police Reform, click here.

Hassan Abbas is a Senior Advisor at Asia Society and a Professor at National Defense University.