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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Pakistan

Pakistan - Consular Information Sheet
May 23, 2001

Pakistan - Travel Warning
September 25, 2001

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to evaluate carefully the implications for their security and safety before deciding to travel to Pakistan and whether to remain in Pakistan.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and possible responses in Afghanistan heighten the need for vigilance on the part of American citizens resident in or traveling through Pakistan.

In neighboring Afghanistan, the Taliban authorities, which control at least 90 percent of Afghanistan, continue to harbor international terrorist Usama bin Laden and members of his terrorist network. While the Government of Pakistan has expressed its full support for the international campaign against terrorism, some public sympathy and support for the Taliban, as well as for bin Laden, exist in Pakistan, and the presence of indigenous sectarian and militant groups in Pakistan require that all Americans in or traveling through Pakistan take appropriate steps to maintain their security awareness. Events in the Middle East also increase the possibility of violence.

As a result of these concerns, on September 17, the Department authorized the departure of all U.S. Embassy and Consulate personnel in non-emergency positions and family members at our missions in Pakistan. In addition, as of Tuesday, September 25, all American employees at theU.S. Consulate in Lahore departed Lahore. While emergency American citizens services will be provided to the extent possible by remaining Consulate Lahore foreign national staff, request for non-emergency American citizens services should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. Further, the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar has temporarily located some U.S. employees to Islamabad in light of rising tensions in Peshawar. U.S. citizens are advised to consider U.S. Mission reduced staffing levels at these posts and the resultant decrease in the services they are asked to provide while considering travel in the region.

All American citizens in Pakistan are urged to consider their personal security situations and to take those measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well being, including consideration of departure from the country. Consulates in Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad remain available for emergency services to American citizens on a limited basis. However, from time to time, the missions in Pakistan have and will continue to temporarily close or suspend public services as necessary to review their security posture and ensure its adequacy.

Americans who despite this warning reside in or visit Pakistan should exercise maximum caution and take prudent measures. This includes maintaining a strong security posture by being aware of their surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes and notifying the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in case of any change in the local security situation.

The U.S. Embassy also urges all American citizens to defer travel to the tribal areas of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province until further notice. The Government of Pakistan requires all citizens of countries other than Pakistan and Afghanistan to obtain permission from the Home and Tribal Affairs Department prior to visiting these tribal areas which lie outside the normal jurisdiction of the Government of Pakistan.

U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to register and obtain updated security information at the American Embassy in Islamabad, the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, or the Consulate in Peshawar at the following addresses:

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, telephone (92-51) 2080-0000; consular section telephone (92-51) 2080-2700, fax (92-51) 822-632.

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi is located at 8 Abdullah Haroon Road, telephone (92-21) 568-5170 (after hours: 92-21-568-1606), fax (92-21) 568-0496.

The U.S. Consulate in Lahore is located on 50-Empress Road near Shimla Road or Sharah-E-Abdul Hamid Bin Badees, (Old Empress Road), telephone (92-42) 636-5530 during regular working hours for emergency services to American citizens, fax (92-42) 636-5177.

The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar, telephone (92-91) 279-801 through 803, fax (92-91) 276-712.

This supersedes the Travel Warning for Pakistan dated September 17, 2001, to alert Americans to the changes in services provided by the U.S. Consulate in Lahore and to periodic post closures in Pakistan for review of their security postures.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Pakistan is a developing country. Its elected government was overthrown by the military in October 1999, and is now ruled by Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf and an appointed civilian cabinet.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. The visa requirement may be waived for American Citizens not of Indian origin who arrive for a visit of less than 30 days. Please check with the Pakistani embassy or consulate before arrival.. Information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Pakistan, 2315 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC, 20008, telephone (202)939-6295 or 6261, Internet home page: http://www.pakistan-embassy.com. Travelers may also contact one of the Consulates General of Pakistan located at 12 East 65th St., New York, NY 10021, telephone (212)879-5800, fax (212)517-6987, or 10850 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90024, telephone (310)441-5114, fax (310)441-9256. If a traveler plans to stay longer than 30 days in Pakistan, he or she must register with the local police station and obtain a residence permit. This permit must be returned to the same office for an exit visa when the traveler is preparing to leave the country. Airlines may require travelers departing the U.S. to present multiple photographs and complete copies of passports and other travel documents. Tourist facilities are available in the principal population centers of the country.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY/SECURITY/AREAS OF INSTABILITY: Bombings continue to occur throughout Pakistan with alarming frequency. Bombs have exploded in public markets, on a train, at a bus station and in other public venues during the past year causing numerous casualties. Rallies, demonstrations and processions occur from time to time throughout Pakistan on very short notice and have occasionally taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character. Karachi and the southern parts of Punjab province have experienced protracted political or sectarian violence that, although not explicitly anti-American, poses a potential danger to American travelers. During the Islamic religious observances of Ramadan and Moharram, sectarian rivalry and violence often increase. Family feuds are frequently fatal and may be followed by retaliation. Women do not walk out alone and it is not wise to travel in the streets late at night. Travelers may wish to maintain a low profile, blend in, and seek security in the traveler's family or sponsoring organization.

Northern Areas - Visitors wishing to trek in Gilgit, Hunza, Chitral and the upper Swat valley should use only licensed guides and tourist agencies. There have been occasional assaults and in 1998, a U.S. tourist who was not accompanied by a guide was murdered in Gilgit.

Northwest Frontier Province - Substantial areas within the Northwest Frontier Province are designated tribal areas and are outside the normal jurisdiction of government law enforcement authorities. Visitors risk being caught in armed clashes between tribal factions or smugglers. Carjackings and the abduction of foreigners are occasionally reported from the tribal areas. If visitors must enter the tribal areas, a permit from the Home and Tribal Affairs Department is required. The permit may stipulate that an armed escort must accompany the visitor. Even in the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, there is occasional ethnic, sectarian, and political violence as well as anti-foreign rhetoric; foreigners should steer clear of such demonstrations or known areas of conflict. However, the monthly steam train excursion for tourists from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass is well protected by local authorities.

Kashmir: Military operations continue along the Line of Control in Kashmir and military exchanges between Pakistani and Indian forces often result in deaths and injuries on both sides. Jihadist groups, some of whom have made anti-American statements, are active in the area. Many areas are restricted. Americans planning travel in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir should contact the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad prior to travel in the area and assure that they have taken appropriate security precautions. Due to security reasons, U.S. Embassy employees do not routinely travel to Kashmir. An American and other Westerners were kidnapped in Indian-controlled Kashmir in 1995 and have never been found.

Punjab Province - Sectarian violence decreased considerably during the first half of 1999, from the high 1998 levels of violence, which resulted in dozens of deaths. While Americans are not targets of this violence, the foreign community is not immune, as evidenced by the 1997 assassination of five Iranians in an attack widely believed to have had sectarian overtones. As a precaution against possible dangers resulting from sectarian violence, U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid public transportation and crowded areas.

Sindh Province - In the areas of Karachi and Hyderabad there have been recurring outbreaks of ethnic and sectarian violence characterized by an increasing number of random bombings, shootings and mass demonstrations. These have resulted in deaths and the imposition of curfews. There have also been numerous incidents of kidnappings for ransom. In rural Sindh Province, the security situation is hazardous, especially in regard to overland travel. Foreigners have occasionally been kidnapped and, in a 1995 incident, the foreign kidnap victim was killed in a subsequent gunfight between police and bandits. The Government of Pakistan has recommended that travelers limit their movements in Sindh Province to the city of Karachi. If visitors must go into the interior of Sindh Province, the Government of Pakistan requests that travelers inform police authorities well in advance of the trip so that necessary police security arrangements can be made.

Baluchistan Province - The province of Baluchistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan, is notorious for cross-border smuggling. Armed battles between clans are frequent. Because provincial police presence is limited, travelers wishing to visit the interior of Baluchistan should consult with the province's Home Secretary. Advance permission from provincial authorities is required for travel into some areas. Local authorities have detained travelers who lack permission. Although Quetta, the provincial capital, is quieter than the interior, it has experienced serious ethnic violence that has led to gun battles in the streets and the imposition of curfews.

Returning Americans of Afghan origin are sometimes targets for harassment for extortion by the local populace and even by police, local immigration and customs officials--especially if they do not have a well-established family structure in Pakistan.

CRIME: Crime is a serious concern for foreigners throughout Pakistan, with violent crime increasing faster than any other category. Carjackings, armed robberies, house invasions and other violence against civilians have increased steadily in the major urban areas. Lahore and Karachi, in particular, experience high levels of crime. They are large cities beset by poverty, high unemployment, and underpaid, under-manned police forces. Travelers in Karachi are encouraged to use hotel shuttles from the airport rather than taxis, which are subject to police harassment, especially after dark. Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common throughout Pakistan.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to South Asia for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate medical care is available in major cities in Pakistan, but is limited in rural areas. With the exception of the Agha Khan Hospital in Karachi and Shifa International Hospital in Islambad, Americans may find hospital care and cleanliness below US standards.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: The water is not potable anywhere in Pakistan and sanitation in many restaurants is inadequate. Stomach illnesses are frequent and dangerous. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers from the United States at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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 traffic safety and road conditions in Pakistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Good to Poor
Rural Road condition/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Road travel in Pakistan is risky. Roads are crowded, drivers are aggressive and poorly trained, and many vehicles, particularly large trucks and buses, are badly maintained. 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. Extreme caution should be exercised when traveling at night by road since many vehicles do not have proper illumination or dimmers and nor are most roads properly illuminated or sign posted. Driving without experienced local drivers or guides is not recommended. For specific current information on road conditions along the Karakoram Highway, travelers may contact the Frontier Works Organization in Rawalpindi at telephone 92-51-566639.

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Pakistan's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Pakistan's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Import of firearms, pornographic material and alcohol is restricted. An import permit and health certificate are required for animals. There are also restrictions on leaving Pakistan with antiquities or animals. It is advisable to contact the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC or the nearest Pakistani consulate for specific information regarding customs requirements.

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. Persons violating Pakistani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Long jail sentences are frequently imposed and large fines are assessed in some cases. Legislation passed in 1994 makes trafficking offenses punishable by death.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Pakistan is largely a cash economy. Personal checks are not commonly accepted. Most Pakistanis do not use checking accounts for routine transactions. Credit cards and traveler's checks are accepted by only a few establishments in the larger cities. There are bank branches as well as registered money changers in all international airports. ATMs are usually not found in airports. English is widely spoken by professional level airport staff. It is best to agree on taxi fares before hiring a driver. Currently, U.S. Embassy employees are restricted from using taxis for security reasons.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone 202-736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: American citizens living in or visiting Pakistan are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Pakistan and obtain updated information on travel and security within Pakistan. They are located at the following addresses:

-- The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, telephone (92-51) 2080-0000; consular section telephone (92-51) 2080-2700, fax (92-51) 822-632, website http://www.usembassy.state.gov/islamabad or www.usembassy.state.gov/pakistan.

-- The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi is located at 8 Abdullah Haroon Road, telephone (92-21) 568-5170 (after hours: 92-21-568-1606), fax (92-21) 568-0496, website http://www.usembassy.state.gov/pakistan or www.usembasy.state.gov/posts/pk2/wwwhamcn.html.

-- The U.S. Consulate in Lahore is located on 50-Empress Road near Shimla Road or Sharah-E-Abdul Hamid Bin Badees, (Old Empress Road), telephone (92-42) 636-5530, fax (92-42) 636-5177, website http://usconsulate-lahore.org.pk/. Email address: amconsul@brain.net.pk

-- The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar, telephone (92-91) 279-801 through 803, fax (92-91) 276-712, web site http://brain.net.pk/~consul/.

The normal workweek in Pakistan is Monday through Saturday, with a half-day worked on Friday. However, the U.S. Embassy and consulates are open Monday through Friday.

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