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Travel Security Advice for Pakistan

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pakistan_mapoPakistan_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  

Pakistan is a parliamentary federal republic in South Asia, with a population of over 170 million people.  Following successful elections in February 2008, Pakistan has a coalition government led by Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani.  Pakistan is a developing country, with some tourist facilities in major cities but limited in outlying areas.  The infrastructure of areas of Kashmir and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) was devastated as a result of the October 8, 2005 earthquake and is not yet recovered.   Read the Department of State Background Notes on Pakistan for additional information.



REGISTRATION:  

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Pakistan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

All U.S. citizens traveling to Pakistan for any purpose are required to have valid U.S. passports and Pakistani-issued visas.  Further information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Pakistan at 3517 International Court Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone: 202-243-6500.  The This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Travelers may also contact one of the Consulates General of Pakistan in:

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it : 20 Chestnut Street, Needham, MA 02492; telephone: (781) 455-8000; fax: (617) 266-6666

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it : 333 North Michigan Ave., Suite 728, Chicago, IL, 60601; telephone: (312) 781-1831; fax: (312) 781-1839

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it : 11850 Jones Road, Houston, TX, 77070; telephone: (281) 890-2223; fax: (281) 890-1433

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it : 10850 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90024; telephone: (310) 441-5114; fax: (310) 441-9256

New York: 12 East 65th St., New York, NY 10021; telephone: (212) 879-5800; fax: (212) 517-6987

If a traveler plans to stay longer than the time listed on the visa, he or she must extend the stay with the local passport office of the Ministry of Interior.  Visit the Embassy of Pakistan website for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:  

A number of extremist groups within Pakistan continue to target American and other Western interests and high-level Pakistani government officials.  Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated willingness and capability to attack targets where Americans are known to congregate or visit.  Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings -- including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices -- assassinations, carjackings, assaults or kidnappings.     Pakistani military forces are currently engaged in a campaign against extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and parts of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), including the Swat Valley.  In response to this campaign, militants have vowed to step up attacks against both civilian and government targets in Pakistan’s cities. 

The presence of Al-Qaida, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to American citizens throughout Pakistan, especially in the western border regions of the country.  Continuing tensions in the Middle East also increase the possibility of violence against Westerners.  Terrorists and their supporters have successfully attacked civilian and government targets.  The Pakistan government has heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities.  Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where Americans and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events. 

Visits by U.S. government personnel to Peshawar and Karachi are limited and movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates in these cities are severely restricted.  American officials in Lahore and Islamabad are instructed to restrict the frequency and to minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations.  Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, for limited stays.  Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Embassy places areas such as hotels, markets, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel.  American citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures and to maintain good situational awareness, particularly when visiting locations frequented by Westerners.  The security situation in many rural areas is extremely hazardous.  American citizens need to obtain advance permission from local or federal authorities to travel to the FATA and large parts of the NWFP, and Balochistan Province.

On June 9, 2009, over ten people were killed and over fifty injured when a car bomb was detonated at a major international hotel in Peshawar.  On November 12, 2008, an American government contractor and his driver in Peshawar were shot and killed in their car.  In September 2008, over fifty people, including three Americans, were killed and hundreds were injured when a suicide bomber set off a truck filled with explosives outside a major international hotel in Islamabad.  In August 2008, gunmen stopped and shot at the vehicle of an American diplomat in Peshawar.  In March 2008, a restaurant frequented by Westerners in Islamabad was bombed, killing one patron and seriously injuring several others, including four American diplomats.  On March 2, 2006, an American diplomat, his locally employed driver, and three others were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi.  Fifty-two others were wounded. 

Extremist and sectarian violence has resulted in fatal bomb attacks in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore, and many other Pakistani cities.  According to media reports, from May 2008 to June 2009 there have been more than 1,800 incidents of terrorism across the country resulting in more than 1,300 deaths and scores of injuries.  Some of the attacks have occurred outside major hotels, in market areas and other locations frequented by Americans.  Other recent targets have included restaurants, Pakistani government officials and buildings, UN staff and facilities, foreign embassies, police and security forces, madrassas and mosques, and international NGOs.  Since late 2007, occasional rockets have targeted areas in and around Peshawar, including in the direction of Peshawar International Airport.  In June 2009 the Peshawar International Airport closed for two days for unspecified security concerns.  In July 2009 some airline carriers suspended service to the airport.  For the most up-to-date information on aviation safety and security, Americans should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website

Since 2007, several American citizens throughout Pakistan have been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons.  Kidnappings for ransom are particularly common in the NWFP and Balochistan.  In 2008, one Iranian and two Afghan diplomats, two Chinese engineers, and a Polish engineer were kidnapped in NWFP.  In February 2009, an American UNHCR official was kidnapped in Balochistan.  Kidnappings of Pakistanis also increased dramatically across the country, usually for ransom.

Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur regularly throughout Pakistan on very short notice and have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character.  Because of the possibility of violence, Americans are urged to avoid all public places of worship and areas where Westerners are known to congregate.

During the Islamic (Shi’a) religious observance of Moharram, rivalries and hostilities often increase. 

It is best to avoid public transportation.  For security reasons, U.S. Mission personnel are prohibited from using trains, taxis or buses.  (See the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section below).

Men and women are advised to dress conservatively, with arms and legs covered, and avoid walking around alone.  It is unwise for anyone to travel on the streets late at night.  Visitors to Pakistan should attempt to maintain a low profile, blend in, and be aware of their surroundings.

Northern Areas - Northern Pakistan has the greatest concentration of the highest peaks in the world.  This is a great challenge for trekkers, mountaineers, and mountain climbers the world over.  Trekking in Pakistan involves walking over rugged, steep terrain, where one is exposed to the elements, often at high altitudes.  The Pakistani Ministry of Tourism has defined trekking as walking below 6000 m.  It has designated three trekking zones: open, restricted, and closed.  Foreigners may trek anywhere in the open zone without a permit or the services of a licensed mountain guide.  For trekking in the restricted zone, foreigners must pay a $20 per person, per trek fee to obtain a trekking permit from the Ministry of Tourism.  To hike in the restricted zone, foreigners must also hire a licensed mountain guide, buy a personal accident insurance policy for the guide and the porters, and attend a mandatory briefing and de-briefing at the Ministry of Tourism.  No trekking is allowed in closed zones, which are located near the Pakistan-Afghan border and near the Line of Control in Kashmir.

While we continue to discourage non-essential travel to Pakistan, the safest option for trekkers is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm that provides an experienced guide and porters.  Trekkers are also advised to leave their itinerary with family or friends in the United States.  While overall crime in the Northern Areas is low, there have been occasional assaults on foreign visitors.  The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad strongly recommends that U.S. citizens exercise extreme caution when trekking at high altitudes.  Only experienced mountain travelers should tackle the northern mountains of the Hindukush, the Karakorams and the Himalayas. 

All peaks/routes for mountaineering in Pakistan have been designated as open or restricted zones.  Permits for climbing peaks are issued by the Ministry of Tourism and fees vary by altitude and time of year.  A Pakistani Army Liaison Officer must accompany all mountaineering expeditions.   Visit the Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation’s website at http://www.tourism.gov.pk/ for the most current trekking and mountaineering information.

Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) – In the past year the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar has twice temporarily relocated some personnel to Islamabad due to the high security threat level.  Pakistani security forces are currently engaged in a campaign against extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the NWFP, including the Swat Valley.  Access to many areas of Pakistan, including the FATA along the Afghan border, is restricted by local government authorities for non-Pakistanis.  Travel to any restricted region requires official permission by the Government of Pakistan.  Failure to obtain permission in advance can result in arrest and detention by Pakistani authorities.  Due to security concerns the U.S. Government currently allows only essential travel within the FATA by American officials.  Even in the settled areas of the NWFP, terrorist activity and sectarian violence are common.  There have been bombings in Peshawar of varying sophistication since September 2006.  Members and supporters of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are known to be in the FATA, and may also be in the settled areas. 

Kashmir - While direct military hostilities between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control (LOC) are infrequent, militant groups engaged in a long-running insurgency on the Indian side of the LOC have bases and supporters operating from the Pakistani side.  Most of these groups are anti-American, and some have attacked Americans and other Westerners.  The Government of Pakistan restricts access to many parts of this region and requires that visitors obtain a permit from the Ministry of Interior before traveling. 

Punjab Province - Violence has increased in Punjab Province.  Since September 2007, several suicide operations have taken place, including attacks in Rawalpindi and Lahore.  In March 2009, eight people were killed in Lahore in a commando-style attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in a shopping area near Qaddafi Stadium.  Later in March, militants injured several hundred police cadets and killed eight recruits and instructors in an attack on a police training school between Lahore and the Wagah border.  A May 2009 suicide attack on the provincial headquarters of law enforcement agencies in central Lahore resulted in almost 600 wounded and 60 dead.  A targeted suicide attack on June 12 killed a prominent, anti-Taliban cleric at a popular madrassa in central Lahore.  As a precaution against these possible dangers, U.S. citizens are cautioned to maintain good situational awareness.  The Wagah border crossing into India near Lahore remains open daily (from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) for travel to and from India if the passport holder has a valid visa for both countries.  Visitors are advised to confirm with Pakistani authorities the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel.  U.S. travelers to Jhang, Attock, Dera Ghazi Khan and Khushab tehsils, as well as Jauharabad tehsil in Muzaffargarh district, require permission from the Ministry of Interior. 

Sindh Province - In Karachi and Hyderabad, there has been recurring violence characterized by bombings, violent demonstrations and shootings.  An October 2007 suicide attack on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto killed more than 130 and injured approximately 375 people in Karachi.  In the aftermath of her December 2007 death, rioting in Karachi led to multiple deaths and injuries, as well as widespread property damage.  In May 2008, clashing groups of lawyers burned buildings and vehicles in several areas of the city, resulting in at least 11 fatalities.  Since April 2009 Karachi has been racked by political violence.  In many areas of the city, there is resentment towards outsiders.  Electrical power outages (“load shedding”), lasting over 20 hours a day, are commonplace and have led to sporadic demonstrations and violence in some parts of the city.  Non-essential travel to these cities is strongly discouraged. 

Americans and other westerners continue to be a potential target of hostility and anti-Western mob violence.  The Consulate General in particular has been the target of several major terrorist attacks or plots in recent years, including the deadly March 2006 suicide attack described above.  Both Sindh and Balochistan are transshipment points for U.S. military equipment en route to Afghanistan.  Personnel, ports, vehicles, and storage areas believed to be supporting U.S. military shipments could be the subject of terrorist attacks.  Also, as U.S. military operations in Afghanistan increase, the probability of attacks and violence against Westerners may increase.  Non-essential travel to these cities is strongly discouraged. In rural Sindh Province, the security situation is hazardous, especially for those engaged in overland travel.  The Government of Pakistan recommends that travelers limit their movements in Sindh Province. 

Balochistan Province - The Province of Balochistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan, is notorious for narcotics and other forms of cross-border smuggling.  Members of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are also believed to be present there.  Tribal unrest sometimes turns violent.  Because provincial police presence is limited, travelers wishing to visit the interior of Balochistan should consult with the province’s Home Secretary.  Advance permission from provincial authorities is required for travel into many areas.  Local authorities have detained travelers who lacked proper permission.  Quetta, the provincial capital, has experienced an increase in bombings, occasional gun battles in the streets, and the imposition of curfews.  Terrorist attacks against Pakistani government installations and infrastructure have been reported throughout 2008 and 2009.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada or, by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME:  

Crime is a serious concern for foreigners throughout Pakistan.  Carjacking, armed robberies, house invasions, and other violent crimes occur in many major urban areas.  Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common.  American travelers to Pakistan are strongly advised to avoid traveling by taxi and other forms of public transportation, and have members of their host organizations or families meet them at the airport.  In June-July 2009 several American-citizen travelers arriving at the international airport in Lahore, who were met by their families, were robbed outside the airport of cash and jewelry, after being stopped by a car with fake government license plates.  Travel outside of urban centers should only be done during daylight hours.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. 



VICTIMS OF CRIME : 

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates ).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Pakistan is 15.  In addition, local emergency responders in Punjab province can be reached by dialing 1122.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.   Persons violating Pakistani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Pakistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. 



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:  

Pakistan is largely a cash economy.  Personal checks are not commonly accepted.  Most Pakistanis do not use checking accounts for routine transactions.  Outside major cities, even credit cards and travelers’ checks are generally not accepted, and there have been numerous reports of credit card fraud.  There are bank branches as well as registered moneychangers in all international airports.  ATMs can also be found in major airports.  English is widely spoken by professional-level airport staff.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 

Adequate basic non-emergency medical care is available in major Pakistani cities, but is limited in rural areas.  Facilities in the cities vary in level and range of services, resources, and cleanliness, and Americans may find them below U.S. standards; facilities in rural areas are consistently below U.S. standards.  Medical facilities require prepayment and most do not accept credit cards.

Water is not potable anywhere in Pakistan and sanitation in many restaurants is inadequate.  Stomach illnesses are common. 

Effective emergency response to personal injury and illness is virtually non-existent in Pakistan.  Ambulances are few and are not necessarily staffed by medical personnel.  Any emergency case should be transported immediately to a recommended emergency receiving room.  Many American-brand medications are not widely available, but generic brands from well-known pharmaceuticals usually are.  The quality of the locally-produced medications is uneven.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Pakistan.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC websiteFor information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page .



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Pakistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic in Pakistan moves on the left, opposite of U.S. traffic.  In addition to this source of potential confusion, travel by road in Pakistan has a variety of other risks.  Roads are crowded, drivers are often aggressive and poorly trained, and many vehicles, particularly large trucks and buses, are badly maintained.  Donkeys, cattle, horse carts, and even the occasional camel can pose roadside hazards in some areas.  Roads, including most major highways, also suffer from poor maintenance and often have numerous potholes, sharp drop-offs and barriers that are not sign-posted.  Drivers should exercise extreme caution when traveling at night by road, as many vehicles do not have proper illumination or dimmers nor are most roads properly illuminated or signed.  Driving without experienced local drivers or guides is not recommended.

It is best to avoid public transportation.  For security reasons, U.S. Mission personnel are prohibited from using taxis or buses.  (See Safety and Security section above.)

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Visit the website of Pakistan’s national tourist office and Pakistan’s national authority responsible for road safety.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:  

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Pakistan’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page .



CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



EMBASSY LOCATION:  


Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates .

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5; telephone: (92-51) 208-0000; Consular Section telephone: (92-51) 208-2700; fax: (92-51) 282-2632

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, located at 8 Abdullah Haroon Road, closed its public operations indefinitely due to security concerns.  U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance should call the Consular Section in Karachi; telephone: (92-21) 3520-4200; fax: (92-21) 3568-0496

The U.S. Consulate in Lahore is located on 50 Sharah-E-Abdul Hamid Bin Badees (Old Empress Road), near Shimla Hill Rotary; telephone: (92-42) 3603-4000; fax: (92-42) 3603-4200

The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar; telephone: (92-91) 526-8800; fax: (92-91) 528-4171

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Pakistan dated November 21, 2008, to update the sections on Country Description, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Victims of Crime, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Pakistan HERE.........

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).......

There is a Malaria Warning for Pakistan Also HERE....

There is a Travel Warning pertaining to Pakistan HERE......

Regards

The SW Team........

 

Direct Gov Travel News and Alerts