Book discussion on Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing

Key information

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Second Floor Paul Webley Wing (Senate House), SOAS

About this event

Join us for a book discussion on 'Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi' by Dr Zoha Waseem

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.


  • Grace Mou, SOAS
  • Amber Lakhani, SOAS
  • Zoha Waseem, Warwick


  • Mayur Suresh, SOAS

About the speaker

Dr Zoha Waseem is an Assistant Professor in Criminology at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick. She is also co-coordinator for the Urban Violence Research Network. Her book, Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters, and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi (Hurst/OUP, 2022) explores how securitisation policies tailored towards the interests of insecure states influence cultures of everyday policing in postcolonial contexts, such as Pakistan. She is broadly interested in the sociology and politics of policing, security provision, militarisation, migration, and violence in the global South.

Organised by the Centre for Law in Asiia, SOAS

Insecure Guardians book cover