The Pakistan Rangers (Urdu: پاکستان رینجرز) are a paramilitary federal law enforcement organization in Pakistan, operating under the authority of the Interior Secretary of Pakistan. Their primary purpose is to secure and defend sites of significance in the country, although they are also usually involved in major internal and external security operations with the regular Pakistani military and provide assistance to municipal and provincial police forces to maintain law and order against crime, terrorism and unrest.
“Rangers” is an umbrella term for the Pakistan Rangers − Punjab and Pakistan Rangers − Sindh (colloquially referred to as the Punjab Rangers and Sindh Rangers, respectively), with the former headquartered in Lahore, Punjab and the latter headquartered in Karachi, Sindh—the two provinces of Pakistan in which each respective force has operational jurisdiction. As such, the Pakistan Rangers are responsible for guarding Pakistan’s international border with neighbouring India; the Punjab Rangers patrol 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) of the border running along Pakistan’s Punjab province, while the Sindh Rangers patrol around the remainder, some 912 kilometres (567 mi) running along Pakistan’s Sindh province. The two forces operate under their own separate chains of command and wear distinct uniforms.
Most famously each evening, the Punjab Rangers, together with their Indian counterparts in the Border Security Force, participate in an elaborate flag lowering ceremony at the Wagah−Attari border crossing near Lahore.
The mutually-recognized India–Pakistan international border is different from the disputed and heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC), where the Pakistani province of Punjab adjoins Kashmir (a conflict territory between India, Pakistan and China) and the undisputed international border effectively ends. Consequently, the LoC is not managed by the paramilitary Punjab Rangers, but by the regular Pakistan Army.
Rangers are formally supervised by the Special Security Unit in the National Crises Management Cell, under the federal Ministry of Interior of Pakistan. However, they can also be commanded by officers on secondment from the Pakistan Army. As of 2017, per the British International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Rangers had well over 25,000+ active personnel. As part of the paramilitary Civil Armed Forces, the Rangers can fall under the full operational control of the Pakistan Armed Forces. This is not exclusively limited to a wartime scenario, but whenever Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan is invoked to provide “military aid to civil power”. An example of this occurring was in 2013, when Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city, had ranked as the sixth-most dangerous city worldwide due to intense violence by criminals, corrupt political agents and Islamist militants (whose presence came as a consequence of the Soviet–Afghan War and Pakistan’s intake of millions of Afghan refugees in the 1980s). As the situation severely deteriorated and fell out of the control of local police, the Pakistan Rangers undertook a large-scale military operation and initiated an intense crackdown on criminals, the MQM political party, as well as Taliban-aligned militants. This operation took Karachi down from the world’s sixth-most dangerous city to 93rd, and allowed the residents of Karachi to resume a normal lifestyle that had been disrupted due to the chaos.
The Pakistan Rangers are legislated by the Pakistan Rangers Ordinance of 1959.