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Home >>Travel Warnings>> Travel Warning for Pakistan

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January 07, 2010

The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Pakistan. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated June 12, 2009, updates information on security incidents and reminds U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.

Pakistani military forces have engaged in a campaign against violent extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Terrorists blame the Pakistani and the U.S. governments for the military pressure on their traditional havens and the death of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader- Baitullah Mehsud- in NWFP in August 2009. In response, militants are seeking to increase their attacks on civilian, government, and foreign 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. Flare-ups of tensions and violence in the many areas of the world also increase the possibility of violence against Westerners. Terrorists and their sympathizers regularly attack civilian, government, and foreign targets, particularly in the NWFP. The Government of Pakistan 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. In recent incidents, terrorists have disguised themselves as Pakistani security forces personnel to gain access to targeted areas. Some media reports have recently falsely identified U.S. diplomats - and to a lesser extent U.S. journalists and NGO workers - as being intelligence operatives or private security personnel.

Visits by U.S. government personnel to Peshawar and Karachi are limited, and movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General in those 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, and 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.

Since October 2009, terrorists have executed coordinated attacks with multiple operatives using portable weaponry such as guns, grenades, RPGs, and suicide vests or car bombs in Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi. Recent attacks included armed assaults on heavily-guarded sites such as the Pakistani Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, the United Nations World Food Program’s office in Islamabad, police training complexes in Lahore; targeted assassinations, including attacks on Pakistani military officers and politicians in Islamabad, as well as an Iranian diplomat in Peshawar; and suicide bomb attacks in public areas, such as an Islamabad university, a Rawalpindi mosque, and major marketplaces in Lahore and Peshawar.

Americans have been victims in such attacks. The October 2009 attack on the World Food Program headquarters resulted in the serious injury of an American citizen. On November 12, 2008, a U.S. government contractor and his driver in Peshawar were shot and killed in their car. In September 2008, over 50 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, a Consulate employee, and three others were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives alongside the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi. Fifty-two others were wounded.

Since 2007, several American citizens throughout Pakistan have been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons. Kidnappings of foreigners 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.

According to the Department of State’s 2008 Human Rights Report for Pakistan, there were over 200 terrorist attacks, including more than 65 suicide bombings, which killed an estimated 970 civilians and security personnel. Some of the attacks have occurred outside major hotels, in market areas and other locations frequented by Americans. Other targets have included restaurants, Pakistani government officials and buildings, police and security forces, mosques, diplomatic missions and international NGOs. Since late 2007, occasional rockets have targeted areas in and around Peshawar.

Access to many areas of Pakistan, including the FATA along the Afghan border, and the area adjacent to the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed territory of Kashmir, 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 such 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. Travel to much of NWFP and Balochistan is also restricted.

Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur regularly throughout Pakistan on very short notice. The December 2007 death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a clash between two groups of lawyers in April 2008, ethnic clashes in December 2008, and the bombing of a religious procession in December 2009, each triggered widespread rioting in Karachi. Multiple deaths and injuries as well as widespread property damage occurred on each occasion. Demonstrations have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character, and Americans are urged to avoid large gatherings.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Pakistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to register with the Embassy in Islamabad or the Consulates General in Karachi, Lahore, or Peshawar. This registration can be completed online through the Department of State's travel registration website. Alternatively, Americans without Internet access should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate for information on registering in person. Registration enables citizens to obtain updated information on travel and security within Pakistan via the emergency alert system (Warden Notices).

The Embassy reiterates its advice to all Americans to take measures for their safety and security at all times. These measures include maintaining good situational awareness, avoiding crowds, and keeping a low profile. The Embassy reminds Americans that even peaceful demonstrations may become violent and advises Americans to avoid demonstrations. Americans should avoid setting patterns by varying times and routes for all required travel. Americans should ensure that their travel documents and visas are valid at all times. Official Americans are instructed to avoid use of public transportation and restrict their use of personal vehicles in response to security concerns.

Security threats may on short notice temporarily restrict the ability of U.S. Missions, particularly in Peshawar, to provide routine consular services. All American citizens are encouraged to apply for renewal of travel documents at least three months prior to expiration.

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; website http://islamabad.usembassy.gov; Email address: acs_islamabad@state.gov. For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-51-208-0000.

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, located at 8 Abdullah Haroon Road, provides service to U.S. citizens by appointment only. U.S. citizens requiring assistance should call the consular section in Karachi. Their telephone is (92-21) 3520-4200; fax (92-21) 3568-0496; website http://karachi.usconsulate.gov/. For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-21-3520-4200.

The U.S. Consulate General in Lahore is located at 50- Sharah-E-Abdul Hameed Bin Badees, (Old Empress Road) near Shimla Hill Rotary; telephone (92-42) 3603-4000; fax (92-42) 3603-4200; website http://lahore.usconsulate.gov/; Email address: acslahore@state.gov. For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-42-3603-4000.

The U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar; telephone (92-91) 526-8800; fax (92-91) 527-6712; website http://peshawar.usconsulate.gov. For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-91-526-8800.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Pakistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or Consulates or through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Pakistan. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in Pakistan. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the Worldwide Caution and the Pakistan Country Specific Information can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).



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