Citizen Trust in Police: A Puzzling Paradox

Ali Cheema and Zulfiqar Hameed

Public ratings of the police have consistently been below the ratings of other institutions in Pakistan. Only 33% of Pakistani respondents in Pew’s 2014 Global Attitudes Survey agreed that the police are exerting a good influence on the way things are going in Pakistan. This was much lower than the rating given to courts (47% agreed), the Federal Government (60% agreed) and the Pakistan Army (80% agreed). Pew’s 2009 survey found similar differences as did the Gallup survey of 2017.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that less than 25% of respondents in the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives’ (IDEAS) Lahore Crime Survey (LCS) 2016 agreed that “the Lahore police are trustworthy.” Figure 1 shows that citizen trust in the Lahore police is low by global standards. The level of citizen trust in Lahore police is half the level found in London and urban centers in the U.S.

What is surprising is that that the Lahore police does much worse on citizen trust than the police services in London and the Urban U.S. despite the lower rate of victimization experienced by citizens in Lahore. The victimization rate in Lahore was 25% less than the rate in London and the Urban U.S. in 2016 (Figure 2). Low citizen trust in the Lahore police is even more surprising when one recognizes that more than 70% of the respondents in the IDEAS LCS 2016 reported that public safety had improved in their neighborhood compared to the last year. The co-existence of low citizen trust in the police with low victimization and a recognition that public safety has improved is a puzzling paradox!

What explains this paradox? We can begin to arrive at a solution by unpacking the reasons for low trust. The IDEAS LCS 2016 asked citizens questions about three important metrics: trust in police effectiveness, trust in police honesty and trust in police’s procedural fairness. We find that while half our respondents agreed that the Lahore police are effective, around 25% agreed that they are procedurally fair and only 10% agreed that they are usually honest (Figure 3). Interestingly, while citizen perceptions of police effectiveness are in line with global averages, citizen perceptions of police honesty and procedural fairness fall well below them. The verdict of citizens is that their issue with the police is not competence; it is poor processes of service delivery. Which parts of the policing process are adversely impacting citizen trust? We find that the First Information Report (FIR) registration system is a particularly pernicious cause of low citizen trust. Our evidence shows that the percentage of victimization incidents (reported in crime surveys) registered as criminal cases (reported in the police’s case registration data) – what we call the registration rate – was far lower in Lahore than in London and the Urban U.S. in 2016.

We found that the Lahore police registered only 7% of victimization incidents reported by citizens in the IDEAS LCS 2016 as FIRs. The registration rate in Lahore is much lower than the crime registration rate found in Urban U.S. (19%) and in London (42%). The IDEAS LCS 2016 asked victims who reported an incident but whose complaint was not registered by the police to provide up to three reasons for the police’s failure to register. 50% said that the registration process was complex and ad hoc, while another 40% said that the current system provides poor incentives to register crime. In short, the citizens’ view is that fixing the registration process requires reforming institutional incentives at the level of the thana (police station).

The IDEAS LCS 2016 also asked respondents to report the number of times the police demanded unofficial payments from them during the past year. 50% of complainants (victims whose complaint was recorded by the police) in the survey reported direct experience of corruption. What is worrying is that direct experience of complainants with police corruption is double the level experienced by non-complainants (20%). This difference is due to the high burden of unofficial payments associated with the FIR registration that is faced by complainants. Nearly 40% of complainants report registration as the reason for the unofficial payment, which is far less than the proportion of non-complainants (5%) who report it as a reason.

The main message from this evidence is that rebuilding citizen trust in the Lahore police will not be possible without reforming the FIR registration process. In our view, there is a strong case for institutionalizing an automatic registration system that registers cases on the basis of a complaint. We recommend institutionalizing this system in cases of crime against property (theft, robbery, burglary, dacoity, extortion and attempts at these crimes) where no one is nominated as a culprit at the time of the complaint. According to our data these types of cases constitute a majority of victimization incidents in Lahore and hence the reform can have a big impact, as it will be applicable to a large number of cases.

This simple reform can go a long way in restoring citizen trust and healing the broken relationship between citizens and the police. The question is whether there is political appetite for this simple reform?

Ali Cheema is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives.

Zulfiqar Hameed is associated with the Police Service of Pakistan.

The reports on which this blog is based can be found at:

What President Trump means for Pakistan


By Shehryar Nabi

What does the Trump administration mean for Pakistan? Here are the key issues to watch:

Relations with the United States

The American foreign policy establishment has held an increasingly critical view of Pakistan. Despite being a U.S. ally in fighting terrorism, Pakistan has been accused of distinguishing between “good and bad” terrorists and supporting militant groups that threaten U.S. interests. Former President Barack Obama even questioned why Pakistan should remain an ally. Pakistan currently relies on the U.S. for $850 million worth of economic and military aid, which has declined over the past few years.

At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he will incentivize Pakistan to eliminate terrorists within its borders. He also said he would encourage collaboration between Pakistan and Afghanistan to combat terrorism. Mattis has in the past stressed the importance of maintaining an alliance with Pakistan despite frustration with its anti-terror efforts.

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has taken a tougher position. In his recent book, The Field of Fight, he wrote that Pakistan must choose between helping extremists or receiving harsh treatment from the United States. If this translates into less aid or more trade restrictions, sectors of Pakistan’s economy that depend on American money could suffer.

Pakistan’s tightening geopolitical relationship with China may put it in an awkward position if the U.S.-China relationship starts to deteriorate. Trump talked disparagingly about China’s effect on the American economy during the presidential campaign. Trump’s pick for secretary of state said that he would block China’s access to artificial islands it built in the South China Sea. China responded with aggressive statements. But hostilities could be checked by Trump’s pick for ambassador to China, whom the Chinese government has praised as “an old friend”.

Continued expansion of America’s relationship with India could also strain U.S.-Pakistan relations. In August, the U.S. and India signed an agreement that relaxed institutional impediments to military logistics-sharing between the two countries. In December, the U.S. also officially recognized India as a “Major Defense Partner”, guaranteeing future military collaboration. Secretary of Defense Mattis has said he would continue strengthening U.S.-India ties.

These actions are perceived as an attempt by the U.S. to check China’s influence in Asia. If China takes issue with a militarily empowered India, it might find an even stronger ally in Pakistan, which is likely to be alarmed by the situation. This would only add to the awkwardness of Pakistan’s position with the U.S.

Climate change

Rising sea levels and drought induced by climate change threaten to create tens of millions of climate refugees in Pakistan. But Pakistan alone can’t do much about it beyond trying to adapt, because the main contributors to global warming are the United States, Europe and China.

There are clear signs that Donald Trump’s presidency would diminish America’s vital role in upholding global commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. As part of the Paris Agreement, the Obama administration vowed to shut down coal-fired power plants, which would lower U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by up to 28 percent. The Trump administration intends to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement and lift Obama-era regulations that limit the extraction of fossil fuels. He tweeted in the past that climate change was “created by and for the Chinese”, and he picked a climate skeptic to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Without America’s cooperation in global pledges to reduce greenhouse gases, the world will move faster towards an atmospheric temperature of 2 degrees Celsius – widely considered the climate “danger zone”.


Remittances – money sent by migrants to their countries of origin – make up seven percent of Pakistan’s GDP. 13 percent of those remittances ($1.3 billion) come from the United States. Remittances play a crucial role in making poorer families resilient during natural disasters and periods of economic uncertainty, and they can even spur entrepreneurship.

Pakistan could see a sharp increase in remittances from the United States in the near term if Pakistanis living there fear prejudice and send money back in case they have to return. This is precisely what happened after the September 11th attacks in 2001 led to a rise in in anti-Muslim sentiment. From 2001 to 2002, remittances to Pakistan from the United States nearly tripled.

Why would Pakistanis fear prejudice? Trump’s campaign was marked by controversial statements about Muslims such as his proposed temporary ban on all Muslim travel to the United States, the notion that Islam hates America and the establishment of a Muslim registry. Hate crimes against Muslims also increased by 67 percent from 2014 to 2015, and there is concern that perpetrators of these crimes are empowered by Trump. However, recent polling data showing that overall American favorability of Muslims increased (mainly driven by members of the Democratic and Independent parties) during Trump’s campaign suggests growing prejudice and support for Muslims are parallel trends.

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order barring all immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, and the White House hinted that Pakistan could be included in the future. However, there is room in the order for exempting immigrants on a case-by-case basis, and the order won’t apply to green card holders.

If these factors combine to foster anxiety among Pakistanis living in the U.S., remittances could rise in the near term. But if more Pakistanis leave the U.S. and fewer choose to migrate there, there will likely be a long-term slump in remittances.

Human capital

Thousands of Pakistanis go to the United States to study and work every year. Many of them stay in America and find employment in high-skilled jobs. This has contributed to a “brain drain”: Pakistan is missing out on the contribution of highly educated citizens who choose to work abroad.

But at the same time, many Pakistanis come back and make a real impact with the advanced knowledge acquired in other countries. This knowledge makes them great “human capital”.

If the Trump administration fosters the hostile environment described above, would Pakistan benefit from a “reverse brain drain” – when highly educated Pakistanis decide to come back? It might, but those Pakistanis may prefer to work in another country with organizations that reward advanced skills and talent. Pakistan lacks enough of those organizations.

If Trump’s presidency marks a longer-term decline in Pakistani access to American institutions, high-achieving Pakistanis who want to bring back global knowledge and experience will have a harder time doing so.


Exports are a key driver of economic growth in Pakistan. The United States is Pakistan’s top export destination with $3.7 billion worth of exports in 2015.

86 percent of those exports are from textiles, which dominate Pakistan’s manufacturing sector. Invigorating this currently struggling sector will lead to mass job creation that will reduce poverty and help prevent a future unemployment crisis.

Anger over the loss of manufacturing jobs in America was decisive for Trump’s election victory. He touted protectionist trade policies during his campaign to bring outsourced manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

He pledged to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if it isn’t renegotiated in America’s favor, he killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and vowed to impose a 45 percent tariff on goods from China. While it’s unclear whether Trump’s top officials on trade would advocate these exact policies, they hold a similar, skeptical outlook on America’s trade deals.

This protectionism, if applied to Pakistan, will make it more expensive for Americans to buy Pakistani goods and may reduce export earnings from the United States.

Multilateral engagement with Pakistan

Pakistan receives billions of dollars from multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, both of which receive more funding from the United States than any other country.

The Trump administration has drafted, but not yet implemented, two executive orders that could lower U.S. commitment to these and other international organizations.

The first order cuts funding for any United Nations agency or other international body that, among other criteria, grants membership to the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization, funds abortion or receives money from any state that sponsors terror or violates human rights. The order further mandates a minimum 40 percent decrease in spending toward international organizations.

The second order requires a review of America’s current multilateral treaties and withdraws from those that are not directly related to national security, extradition or international trade.

The fact that the order has been delayed could mean it will be amended. But it signals that the Trump administration is serious about rolling back U.S. global engagements in the development sector. Resources for organizations that support healthcare, education, infrastructure development, energy and other sectors will likely be reduced. Indeed, the effectiveness of international donor money for development is subject to debate. But if the orders result in decreased global support for Pakistan’s development goals, achieving them will be a greater challenge.

Shehryar Nabi works in communications for the Consortium for Development Policy Research and the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives

15 changes in 2016 that shaped Pakistan’s development path

(Image: Flickr user junaidrao, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Shehryar Nabi

Whether you are a pessimist or an optimist about the future, 2016 was indisputably a pivotal year for the world. Here’s a recap of the changes both in and out of Pakistan in 2016 that will affect its development path:

1. Poverty was re-defined

The poverty rate increased significantly this year after the government updated its own methodology for determining poverty, and found that 30 percent of Pakistanis are poor.

The United Nations Development Programme also released Pakistan’s first-ever multidimensional poverty index, which uses non-wealth indicators such as education and health to measure poverty. Using this method, Pakistan’s poverty rate comes to 39 percent.

The good news is that no matter the measure, the poverty rate has been declining overtime, albeit unevenly across different regions.

As argued here, efforts to re-define poverty indicate a willingness to adapt the measure for better anti-poverty interventions. This means that more poor people living above the official poverty line can be targeted by poverty reduction efforts.

2. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor became functional

The first Chinese ship docked at Gwadar port to receive goods transported along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for sale in global markets, opening CPEC to international trade. The government estimates that the $54 billion Chinese investment in infrastructure and energy will create 800,000 jobs and boost Pakistan’s GDP growth rate from its current 4.7 percent to 7 percent in 2018.

But CPEC enthusiasts shouldn’t express their jubilation at the initial investment alone. The transformative effects of CPEC will only be felt if regions adopt policies to accommodate it, and local entrepreneurs seize the opportunity.

CPEC is also tightening Pakistan and China’s military relationship, raising eyebrows in India.

3. More protections for women were legislated

Two bills giving women greater legal protection from physical and sexual violence were passed in 2016.

In February, the Punjab assembly passed the Protection of Women Against Violence Act, which expands the kinds of actions women can report as violence and establishes a process for reporting abuse, protecting victims and bringing cases to court.

In October, parliament passed anti-honor killing and anti-rape bills. The new laws prevent the victim’s family from forgiving the perpetrator of an “honor killing” (unless the perpetrator is sentenced to a capital punishment) and, for rape cases, set a three-month time limit for determining verdicts, require DNA testing as evidence and impose a minimum prison sentence of 25 years for the offender.

The Protection of Women Against Violence Act was criticized by the Council of Islamic Ideology as being un-Islamic and unconstitutional.

Activists praised the bills as a step in the right direction, but there is concern that the laws do not go far enough and lack proper implementation.

4. The International Monetary Fund ended its stabilization program

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ended its US $6.7 billion, three year stabilization program that increased Pakistan’s foreign reserves enough for four months of imports, reduced its deficit from 8 to 4.3 percent and maintained a steady outlook for economic growth.

While Pakistan is safe from an external shock to its economy for now, the IMF may come back if necessary reforms to make Pakistan resilient to global economic shifts are delayed for too long.

5. Relations soured with Afghanistan . . .

Continued criticism from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Pakistan has not done enough to prevent cross-border terrorism, skirmishes at the Khyber Pass and plans to deport 3 million Afghan refugees could further slowdown Pakistan and Afghanistan’s trade relationship and hurt regional cooperation.

6. . . . and India

The glimmer of hope for India-Pakistan relations established after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore quickly faded when terrorists allegedly based in and supported by Pakistan killed seven Indian soldiers and one civilian at Pathankot air force base, 19 soldiers at Uri and seven soldiers at Nagrota in India-administered Kashmir.

Anti-India sentiment was also inflamed in Pakistan after the Indian army cracked down on Kashmiri protesters, killing 89 and causing eye damage to thousands, many of whom became permanently blind.

Bollywood banned Pakistani actors, and Pakistan banned Bollywood films (until recently). India carried out “surgical strikes” against terrorists in Pakistan – although official and civilian narratives of the strikes differ. There were more cross-border firings between Pakistani and Indian soldiers. The Indus Waters Treaty came under threat.

While improved India-Pakistan relations are desirable for expanding trade, cultural exchanges and preventing war, the events of 2016 do not bode well.

7. Pakistan became Asia’s best-performing stock market

The Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad stock exchanges merged into the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX), which became Asia’s best-performing stock market with an increased value of 27 percent.

Recently, a Chinese-led consortium acquired a 40 percent stake in the PSX, with the hopes of drawing more Chinese investment into Pakistan’s economy.

8. The Panama Papers changed politics

The anti-corruption agenda spearheaded by the leading opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was bolstered by the Panama Papers investigation that revealed Nawaz Sharif’s children as among the global rich and powerful who hold large offshore accounts.

While there is currently no evidence that the money was extracted through corrupt means, the issue has become a thorn in the side of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) for the 2018 election. With a PMLN victory, voters can expect a continuation of the energy-expanding, infrastructure-building focus of development policy. But if the Panama issue remains potent, securing a PTI win, Pakistan may change course.

9. Pakistan became committed to global CO2 reduction targets

In November, Pakistan ratified the Paris Agreement, which commits countries to reduced CO2 emissions targets. Pakistan also passed the Climate Change Bill 2016, which proposes measures for mitigating the effects of climate change. However, having different ministries implement the measures will be a separate, though important challenge given the threats climate change poses to flood risk, food security and the overall economy.

10. Power generation costs continued to fall

Lower global oil prices and the expansion of wind, hydel, coal, solar and nuclear power projects have made power generation much cheaper, as seen by a recent 50 percent cost reduction in November. Energy costs will likely fall even further if more power companies are privatized, and CPEC energy investments are made next year. The government is hoping that by the 2018 election, regular blackouts will end. However, if power losses from transmission and distribution and inefficient energy usage are not addressed, blackouts will likely return.

11. Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure

New highways. Upgraded railroads. Metro lines. Pakistan’s push for modern infrastructure intensified in 2016.

There is a view that the government is giving infrastructure too much focus and, as a consequence, neglecting the education and health sectors. Others argue that better infrastructure is a form of economic justice.

12. Polio moved closer to eradication

In 2014, there were 306 new cases of polio in Pakistan, a significant increase from preceding years. In response, the government began carrying out regular vaccination drives. This year, only 22 new cases of polio were reported.

The final push to complete eradication still poses challenges, as health workers administering vaccines are threatened by attacks and outdated systems for managing anti-polio drives could leave some children unvaccinated.

13. A cure for Hepatitis C became more affordable

According to Pakistan’s health ministry, about 8 million Pakistanis have Hepatitis C, and 80,000 die from the disease every year. The most effective treatment for the disease is the drug sofosbuvir, but unless a local pharmaceutical company has the rights to produce a generic version, it costs US $1,000 per pill.

This year, the Pakistani pharmaceutical Ferozsons acquired those rights and began manufacturing the drug to be sold at a slashed price of $56 for 28 doses. While poor sanitation and dirty needle use will likely keep Hepatitis C prevalence high, the availability of a low-cost treatment will undoubtedly save lives.

14. A program to reduce malnourishment began 

With the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, Pakistan launched a food fortification program to fight malnourishment. 44 percent of Pakistani children under five have stunted growth from malnutrition, slowing their cognitive ability and increasing their susceptibility to disease. The program will add micronutrients to flour and edible oils with the hopes that in five years, they will be consumed by over half of the population.

15. The West saw a historic political shift

Pakistan will likely feel the effects of the major political and economic changes in the West: the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency, Britain’s exit from the European Union and the rise of political parties that favor less trade, less foreign aid and less immigration.

Pakistan may be caught in an awkward position vis-à-vis relations with China and the US if they engage in a trade war, foreign aid could decline and discouraged Pakistani migrants in the West might cause a drop in remittances.

These possibilities and more will be examined in greater detail for a future post.

Shehryar Nabi works in communications for the Consortium for Development Policy Research (CDPR) and the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS)