Royal Holloway University of London Department of History
and The University of Leeds School of History
Event Date: 9 and 10 September 2010
Royal Asiatic Society 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1
Sarah Ansari – The Curious Case of Sir Gilbert Grace: Policing Karachi, 1947-1958
So-called ‘ethnic’, or provincial, tensions have been an endemic feature of Pakistani life since its earliest days. This paper, drawing on official records and contemporary newspaper reports, engages with this issue in the context of the challenges involved in policing the federal capital, Karachi, in the decade that followed independence. In particular, it highlights the intense rivalry that developed between the Karachi Police and the Special Police Establishment (set up under the Pakistan Special Police Establishment Ordinance of 1948), which eventually resulted in the ousting from his post of the British Inspector General of Police, Sir Gilbert Grace, in 1956 against a backdrop of mutual accusations of police corruption and malpractice. While the vast majority of Karachi’s non-Muslim officers had left for India by the beginning of the 1950s, a new power struggle had quickly emerged in the city between ‘refugee’ displaced police officers on the one hand and officers from elsewhere in what had become Pakistan on the other. In effect, this competition between the various police establishments located within the city mirrored the wider manoeuvring for power and influence that was taking place as Pakistan’s newly-established services sought to accommodate the different sets of interests that had come together since 1947. Equally importantly, it can also tell us a great deal about the role of the police in the everyday lives of the ordinary citizens who had made Karachi their home, demonstrating just how far people relied on possessing the right connections (or social capital) to protect their interests in the context of Pakistan’s early years.