POLICY BRIEF: The Role of Pakistani Policewomen in Countering Violent Extremism

Photo courtesy of US Embassy/Pakistan

Last week, the Pakistani Taliban and civilian government sat down for the first time to conduct face-to-face peace talks. These discussions—between a militant group that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and the political leaders who’ve thus far been unable to fully stem the violence—will have very real consequences for the men, women, and children of Pakistan and neighboring countries.

Pakistan is at a critical juncture, as it tries to contain and combat violent extremism that has devastated families and communities across all provinces. Terror has been an all-too-common occurrence in places like Peshawar and Quetta. Recently, the threat has been growing in Punjab and other areas, with the capital of Islamabad experiencing its first violent attack in five years last month.

Through all of this, the country has relied predominantly on its military to maintain internal security, with limited success. It’s time for a new approach: one that puts Pakistan’s police forces, and particularly its policewomen, at the forefront of counterterrorism efforts.

Inclusive Security’s latest policy brief—the result of extensive consultations with policewomen, high-ranking police officials, and security experts in Pakistan—recommends specific actions for the US and Pakistani governments to take in order to shift this strategy.


We already know that Pakistani women are key to moderating extremism and combating terrorism. As civil society and government leaders, they are implementing innovative solutions in order to restore stability and bring peace to their communities and region.

Research also shows that:
1. Police operations are more effective at combating terrorism than military force; and
2. Policewomen improve the operational effectiveness of law enforcement.

As police officers, women enable law enforcement agencies to more effectively serve and protect entire communities; they have access to a broader set of perspectives and information; and they enhance the credibility of these essential public institutions. Yet only one in 100 Pakistani police officers is a woman. Female officers usually serve in administrative and support roles. They are rarely afforded decision-making power or provided with professional development or training.

International donors, particularly the US, have spent billions of dollars over the past decade on security-related aid to Pakistan. However, none of this funding prioritizes the recruitment and retention of women in the police forces, despite the evidence that this approach could more effectively counter a growing insurgency in the country.

With the drawdown of international forces in neighboring Afghanistan, there’s growing concern about a dramatic rise in violence and volatility throughout the region. Now is the time to recognize and enhance women’s role in countering this trend and restoring stability.

Read “Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Pakistan: Why Policewomen Must Have a Role.”

And don’t miss the upcoming event, “Countering Violent Extremism in Pakistan: Why Women Must Have a Role,” April 2, 2014 at the Atlantic Council.

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