A summary of the report on the Policing Urban Violence in Pakistan is being published. A very good report that highlights some very important issues of urban policing Pakistan particularly in the present day context. Full report can be found on the ICG website.
Afzal A Shigri
International Crisis Group
Asia Report N°255 23 January 2014
Endemic violence in Pakistan’s urban centres signifies the challenges confronting
the federal and provincial governments in restoring law and order and consolidating
the state’s writ. The starkest example is Karachi, which experienced its deadliest year
on record in 2013, with 2,700 casualties, mostly in targeted attacks, and possibly 40
per cent of businesses fleeing the city to avoid growing extortion rackets. However,
all provincial capitals as well as the national capital suffer from similar problems and
threats. A national rethink of overly militarised policy against crime and militancy is
required. Islamabad and the four provincial governments need to develop a coherent
policy framework, rooted in providing good governance and strengthening civilian
law enforcement, to tackle criminality and the jihadi threat. Until then, criminal gangs
and jihadi networks will continue to wreak havoc in the country’s big cities and put
its stability and still fragile democratic transition at risk.
Some of the worst assaults on religious and sectarian minorities in 2013 occurred
in Quetta and Peshawar, including the 10 January suicide and car bomb attack that
killed over 100, mostly Shias, in Quetta; the 16 February terror attack that killed
more than 80, again mostly Shias, in Quetta’s Hazara town; and the 22 September
bombing of a Peshawar church that killed more than 80 people, mostly Christians.
The provincial capitals of Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi and Lahore are bases of operations
and financing for a range of extremist groups and criminal gangs that exploit
poor governance and failing public infrastructure to establish recruitment and patronage
networks. As urban populations grow, the competition over resources, including
land and water, has become increasingly violent.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK)’s capital, Peshawar, and Balochistan’s capital, Quetta,
are hostage to broader regional security trends. The conflict in Afghanistan and crossborder
ties between Pakistan and Afghan militants have undermined stability in KPK
and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Military-dictated counterinsurgency
policies, swinging between indiscriminate force and appeasement deals
with tribal militants have failed to restore the peace, and instead further empowered
violent extremists. Police in Peshawar, which has borne the brunt of militant violence
and where violence is at an all-time high, lack political support and resources and
appear increasingly incapable of meeting the challenge. Indeed, while militants and
criminals frequently target that city, the force is powerless to act when they then
seek haven in bordering FATA agencies, because its jurisdiction, according to the
Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) 1901, does not extend to these areas.
Balochistan’s location, bordering on southern Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban’s
homeland, and longstanding Pakistani policies of backing Afghan Islamist proxies
are partly responsible for the growth of militancy and extremism that now threatens
Quetta. Aided by a countrywide network, Sunni extremists have killed hundreds of
Shias there, while their criminal allies have helped to fill jihadi coffers, and their
own, through kidnappings for ransom. Civilian law enforcement agencies cannot
counter this rising tide of sectarian violence and criminality, since they are marginalised
by the military and its paramilitary arms. Continuing to dictate and implement
security policy, the military remains focused on brutally supressing a province-wide
Baloch insurgency, fuelled by the denial of political and economic autonomy. The
Policing Urban Violence in Pakistan
Crisis Group Asia Report N°255, 23 January 2014 Page ii
end result is more Baloch alienation and more jihadi attacks undermining peace in
the provincial capital.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, which generates around 70 per cent of national
GDP, much of the violence is driven by the state’s failure to meet the demands of a
fast growing population and to enforce the law. Over the past decade, the competition
over resources and turf has become increasingly violent. Criminals and militant groups
attempt to lure youth by providing scarce services, work and a purpose in life. Demographic
changes fuel ethno-political tensions and rivalries, accentuated by the main
political parties: the mostly Sindhi Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Muttahida Qaumi
Movement (MQM) representing mohajirs and the predominately Pashtun Awami
National Party (ANP) forging links with criminal gangs.
Like Quetta and Peshawar, Karachi is a major target of violent sectarian groups
such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has its home base in Punjab. Since the
LeJ and other major jihadi groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa
(LeT/JD) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed conduct operations within and outside the
country from bases in Punjab, the provincial government and police are central to
any comprehensive counter-terrorism effort. It is imperative that both be reformed if
the threat is to be addressed effectively. Countering jihadi networks also requires
coordination and collaboration between the federal and provincial governments and
law enforcement institutions.
Pakistani policymakers must acknowledge and address the socio-economic disparities
that lead to crime and militancy in the urban centres. Stemming the spread of
urban violence also requires efficient, accountable, civilian-led policing. Yet, the
forces in all four provincial capitals are hampered by lack of professional and operational
autonomy, inadequate personnel and resources and poor working conditions.
Instead of relying on the military or paramilitary forces to restore order, the provincial
governments should guarantee security of tenure for police officers, end all interference
in police operations and raise police morale, including by acknowledging and
supporting a force that has been repeatedly targeted by terrorists. It is equally important
for all four provinces to reform and modernise the urban policing system to
meet present needs.
Above all, the state must adopt a policy of zero tolerance toward all forms of militancy.
Proposed plans by the federal and KPK governments to negotiate with the
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), without preconditions or a roadmap, are unwise.
Such a strategy is bound to fail, as have successive military-devised peace deals with
tribal militants in recent years that only expanded the space for jihadi networks in
FATA, KPK and countrywide.
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Crisis Group Asia Report N°255, 23 January 2014 Page iii
To reorient the state toward zero tolerance for all violent groups
To the Federal and Provincial Governments:
1. Withdraw the offer of any talks, absent preconditions that tribal militants renounce
violence and abide by the constitution, and instead develop a coherent policy
framework to tackle the jihadi threat that is rooted in strengthening civilian law
2. Prevent any banned militant jihadi organisation, including the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,
the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, from fundraising, recruiting
and otherwise operating freely in all four provinces and FATA.
To the Political Parties:
3. End all links with criminal gangs in Karachi and jihadi groups in Punjab.
To expand the jurisdiction of police and bolster
their law enforcement mandate
To the Federal and Provincial Governments:
4. Reverse the militarisation of law enforcement in urban centres by:
a) withdrawing all orders granting paramilitary units shoot-to-kill authority;
ensure that any such actions adhere strictly to conditions specified in the
Criminal Procedure Code; and hold any security personnel who violate the law
b) withdrawing paramilitary units from policing duties, confining their mandate
to border areas; and
c) investigating all reported cases of extrajudicial killing, torture and abduction
by state actors, assigning responsibility and holding all officials involved to
5. Empower the KPK police to tackle militant and criminal safe havens by repealing
the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) 1901 in its entirety, incorporating the
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into the constitutional and legal
mainstream and incorporating Peshawar’s Frontier Region (FR Peshawar) into
the rest of the district, thus ending its status as part of FATA.
6. Restore the state’s monopoly over the use of force by:
a) disbanding all state-supported militias; and
b) ending all links between political parties and criminal gangs or militant sects
and taking action against party members, paramilitary personnel and others
providing logistical, financial or other support to such groups