Zoha Waseem, Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi

Published date01 April 2024
AuthorOmar Phoenix Khan
Date01 April 2024
Subject MatterBook Reviews
If the wrongdoing resulted partly from mental illness, drug or alcohol dependence, lack of
fundamental skills and capacities, or comparable disabilities and handicaps, I would want
them helped to address those challenges.
The result of decades of thought and work by one of the worlds most eminent senten-
cing scholars, Doing Justice, Preventing Crime is a tremendous exercise in engaged
scholarship that deserves the widest possible audience among academics, policymakers,
and the general public.
Markus Dubber https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1799-3040
Markus Dubber
University of Toronto, ON, Canada
Zoha Waseem, Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday
Policing in Postcolonial Karachi, Hurst Publishers: London, 2022; 328 pp.
ISBN 9781787386884
Across the world, people are increasingly asking in whose interest the police operate. In
some Anglophone contexts, the notion of policing by consent is being directly chal-
lenged. However, for many societies especially post-colonial societies the general
public has never been under any illusion that the police exist to protect them or uphold
a social contract. Zoha Waseems Insecure Guardians explores and explains that, far
from working in the publics interests, British colonisers introduced policing in India
as a tool of oppression. Waseems work contemplates how these violent origins
evolved into contemporary dynamics and why this heritage is integral to understanding
the post-colonial condition of policing in Pakistan today, focusing on the city of Karachi.
Despite the scale of this task, the clear theoretical framework revolving around the two
key facets of militarisationand procedural informalitymeans that the work remains
structured and focused. Waseem sets out her conceptual stall around these two fundamen-
tal components in the f‌irst chapter and proceeds to elevate the arguments with detailed
elaborations on the intricacies of daily policing and the subtleties and informalities that
rule them. Over the course of six chapters, Waseem weaves information distilled from
more than 200 interviews of serving and retired off‌icers with policy analysis, archival
work and case studies to produce a multifaceted investigation. The research is further
enriched by remarkable access to police off‌icersdaily duties around the city. The com-
bination of the above methods alongside this ethnographic observation leads to an
absorbing holistic account of the nature of policing in Karachi. A fundamental tenet of
Waseems thesis is that contemporary policing practices are best understood by examin-
ing how the demands of the post-colonial Pakistani state interact with a policing institu-
tion that remains regime-centric in the mould of the British colonial project.
440 Punishment & Society 26(2)

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