Asia and Oceania

Pakistan پاکستان کا جھنڈا

Still current at: 10 June 2008
Updated: 05 June 2008

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Terrorism & Sectarian Violence section, (2 June car bomb explosion in Islamabad).  The overall level of this advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • We advise against all travel to areas where there are reports of military or militant activity.  This applies particularly to: northern and western Balochistan, including the Sui/Dera Bugti and Kohlu areas; the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, including Waziristan; Swat, North West Frontier Province (NWFP); and all border areas except for official crossing points.  We also advise against using the rail network across the whole of Pakistan.  See the Terrorism and Sectarian Violence and Local Travel sections of this advice for more details.

  • We also advise against all but essential travel to Quetta (Balochistan) and we advise against using bus services in the whole of Balochistan because of the unsettled security situation. See the Terrorism & Sectarian Violence section of this advice for more details.

  • There is a high threat from terrorism and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan. Since January 2007 there has been a series of attacks and suicide bombings predominantly against the local authorities but also at locations frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  You should also avoid demonstrations or large crowds of people.  See the Terrorism & Sectarian Violence section of this advice for more details.

  • We believe there is a heightened threat to Westerners in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar and you should avoid any public locations known to be frequented by expatriates and foreigners in these cities at this time.

  • If you are intending to travel to Pakistan, you should follow the developing situation in the news media and consult FCO travel advice regularly.  You are also strongly recommended to register with the British High Commission.  You may wish to seek local advice on the latest situation from the Security Section of the British High Commission in Islamabad or the British Deputy High Commission in Karachi.

  • Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Pakistan have resulted in a small number of human fatalities.  The last human fatality was in 2007.  See the Health (Avian Influenza) section of this advice and the Avian and Pandamec Influenza Factsheet for more details.

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Pakistan in 2007 was to replace lost or stolen passports.  However, assistance to victims of forced marriage or child abduction is also common.  If you are concerned about either issue see:  Forced Marriages or Child Abduction .  

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and ensure that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and the Travel Insurance page for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism & Sectarian Violence
 
There is a high threat from terrorism and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan. Since January 2007, there has been a series of attacks and suicide bombings targeted predominantly at the authorities but occasionally also at locations frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
 
Although attacks have been mostly against the military, there is reliable evidence that terrorists continue to target Western, including British, interests and individuals throughout Pakistan. We believe that there is a heightened threat to westerners in major cities.  Most recently, this resulted in a car bomb attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad in June 2008.  Other recent attacks include a suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in January 2007, an attempted bomb attack on Islamabad International Airport in February 2007, and an explosion at a restaurant in central Islamabad in March 2008.  The Pakistani authorities have increased security throughout Pakistan due to the threat of further imminent attacks, including at international hotels in Islamabad.  

Owing to high levels of security at Western embassies, international organisations and international hotels, more vulnerable targets such as clubs, restaurants (including Western style fast food outlets), places of worship and schools are at risk. You should avoid such locations.  Previous bomb attacks have sometimes involved consecutive explosions.  You should satisfy yourself in advance of standards of security at your chosen hotel, and for up-to-date advice you should contact the Security Section of the British High Commission. You should avoid any demonstrations or large crowds of people, including groups of uniformed personnel.

There has been a significant deterioration in the security situation across the whole country since July 2007 linked to military action in FATA and the North West Frontier Province against militants. Since then, more than 900 people have been killed in suicide bombings across Pakistan.  Although many of the bombs have targeted the army and police, attacks have also taken place at rallies, mosques and other locations.  Since September 2007, there have been eight attacks in Rawalpindi killing over 80 people.  Suicide attacks have also taken place in the major cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore since July 2007.  

Significant attacks in the last three months have included:
 
  • On 2 June, a car bomb exploded outside the Danish Embassy in central Islamabad killing eight people and injuring at least 20.
  • On 24 May, 2008, a remote controlled roadside bomb exploded in Peshawar killing two policemen and injuring a further two.
  • Between 25 April and 18 May 2008, two bomb attacks  in Mardan, NWFP,  resulted in 16 fatalities On 1 May 2008, a suicide bomber in Khyber Agency injured several people.
  • On 15 March 2008, there was an explosion at a restaurant in central Islamabad.  At least one person was killed and several injured mostly foreigners.
  • Between 4 and 11 March 2008, three bomb attacks in Lahore resulted in 26 fatalities.
  • Between 29 February and 2 March, three suicide bomb attacks in Mingora (NWFP), Bajaur Agency (FATA) and Darra Adamkhel (NWFP) resulted in 84 fatalities.
  • On 25 February 2008, a suicide bombing killed at least 8 people in Rawalpindi. A separate attack on the office of a NGO in Mansehra, NWFP killed at least 4 people.
  • On 22 February 2008, at least 13 people were killed in a bomb attack on a wedding convoy in Swat.
  • On 16 February 2008, a suicide car bomb at an election rally in Parachinar in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) killed at least 46 people.
  • On 8 February 2008, a bomb at an election rally in Charsadda, NWFP killed at least 29 people.

The major cities are particularly vulnerable to indiscriminate bombing and other attacks, including kidnapping.  You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

There are regular bombings in and around Peshawar, targeting official premises and personnel, CD/DVD shops, barbers and girls’ schools.  You should exercise caution if you intend to travel to Peshawar.  If you still wish to do so, you should seek up-to-date advice from the BHC Islamabad or from the local authorities before travelling. We advise against all travel to areas where there are ongoing reports of military or militant activity.  This applies particularly to Waziristan, northern and western Balochistan including the Sui/Dera Bugti and Kohlu areas, and Swat (North West Frontier Province).  

We advise against road travel to the Northern Areas.  You should avoid travel by bus (as well as rail) in Balochistan.  We advise against all but essential travel to Quetta because of the unsettled security situation there.  If you still plan to travel to Quetta, you should contact the Security section of the British Deputy High Commission, Karachi (00 92 21 582 7000) in advance for current advice.

There are intermittent surges in sectarian violence throughout Pakistan.  Incidents often escalate quickly and have included murders and suicide bombings.  Attacks have occurred in Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta, Gilgit, the FATA and the Northern Areas.  The cities of central Punjab, as well as Quetta and Karachi, are at particular risk from Sunni-Shia violence. Visitors of recognisably Western origin should avoid the vicinity of mosques at busy prayer times, especially on Fridays.  Travellers should avoid demonstrations or large crowds of people.

For more information see the Terrorism Abroad.

Crime

Beware of the risk of street crime and take personal security measures.  Take particular care to safeguard your passport, bank cards, bags, laptops and mobiles, particularly when travelling by public transport including when leaving the airport and when walking in crowded areas. There is an active black market in forged and stolen passports.  Credit card fraud is common.

Criminal violence, including armed car-jacking, robbery, kidnap and murder, is common, especially in Karachi.  Travellers have been offered drugged food and then robbed.  You should be very careful about, and confident of, your personal security arrangements throughout your visit.

For more general information see the Victims of Crime Abroad.

Political Situation

Pakistan Country Profile

On 24 March Pakistan’s National Assembly voted in Yousaf Raza Gillani as Prime Minister and on 31 March, a new cabinet was sworn in by President Musharraf.  The situation in Pakistan is generally calm but  you should continue to monitor the situation carefully.

Local Travel
 
If you have to travel to any of the regions listed below, you or your travel agent should contact the authorities in advance.  They may arrange police protection as necessary and will advise whether you need a No Objection Certificate issued by the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 
You should seek updates on the local security situation from local police, or travel agencies before you travel.
 
The Security sections of the High Commission in Islamabad (0092 51 201 2000) and the Deputy High Commission in Karachi (0092 21 582 7000) can also provide advice on the specific local security situation in those cities.
 
Much of Balochistan, rural Sindh and the North West Frontier Province, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Agencies, have a high incidence of lawlessness.
 
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
 
We advise against all travel to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
 
North West Frontier Province (NWFP)
 
On 21 November 2007, the UN recalled to Islamabad the families of expatriate staff in NWFP, including Peshawar (but not Abbottabad and Mansehra).  All aid workers in the area should remain in touch with local UN co-ordination officials and the Pakistani authorities for the latest security advice.
 
We advise against all travel to Swat because of the unsettled security situation and you are also advised to avoid all road travel to Gilgit and Chitral at this time for the same reason.  We do not advise against road travel to Skardu, Hunza and beyond if you fly to Gilgit first, or travel to the Kalash Valley if you fly to Chitral first.  If travelling on the Karakoram Highway towards Hunza you are advised to travel in daylight hours as the road can be narrow, with sudden precipitous drops.
 
Border areas
 
Except for official border crossing-points, the authorities prohibit travel by foreigners within 10 miles of Pakistan’s international borders and the Kashmir Line of Control, and within 30 miles of the Afghan border in the Northern Areas.
 
Rail Travel
 
We advise against using the railway network as rail service operations remain disrupted since attacks in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.

Nationalist militants regularly plant bombs on the rail network in Balochistan. There have also been a number of derailments. On 19 December 2007, the Karachi-Lahore express train was derailed in the southern Sindh province killing 38 people and injuring 200 more. On 18 February 2007, a series of bombs exploded on a train bound from India to Pakistan.  In July 2005 and January/February 2006, there were serious rail accidents, with many fatalities, in Sindh and in Punjab as a result of sabotage.
 
Road Travel
 
Take particular care on long road journeys and when travelling cross-country.  Local driving standards are erratic, especially at night, road conditions are poor and there is a risk of car-jacking. 
 
When driving, it is advisable to lock all doors and keep the windows up.  Use well-travelled, well-lit routes where possible.  We recommend you do not purchase anything from street vendors or have contact with beggars while travelling by car.
 
For more general information see Driving Abroad.
 
Air Travel
 
Since 1 September 2006, all passengers on domestic flights must present one of the following forms of photo ID at check-in: National Identity card (computerised), passport, driving licence, photo credit card, or school ID card (for children under the age of 18).  This must be an original document, and must bear the same name as on your ticket.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Pakistan is a Muslim country.  You should respect local customs and sensitivities at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan (which in 2008 will last for a month starting in early September) or if you intend to visit religious areas. During Ramadan eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims (though children under the age of puberty are not required to fast). For more general information see Travelling During Ramadan.

You should dress modestly at all times.  Men and women should cover their shoulders and legs when in public.  Women should cover their heads when entering mosques or other holy places, and when travelling in more rural areas.

If you or your father were born in Pakistan, you might be considered a Pakistani national by the authorities, even if you do not hold a Pakistani passport, and the British government might be prevented from providing the full range of consular assistance.

Consular assistance in remote areas might be delayed.

For identification purposes you should carry a photocopy of the data page and Pakistani visa from your passport at all times, plus copies of other important travel documents.  These should be kept separately from the originals, and copies left with friends or relatives in the UK.

Importing alcohol and pork products is illegal.  Homosexuality and co-habitation by an unmarried couple are illegal.  Possession of even small quantities of illegal drugs can lead to imprisonment.  Drug smuggling can attract the death penalty.

Do not take photographs at military establishments, airports or any infrastructure, including bridges and dams or from aircraft. In the past British nationals have been arrested on suspicion of 'spying'.  You should seek prior permission from any official present if you are photographing these types of places, especially in border areas.

For more general advice for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
If you are travelling to Pakistan on a British passport, you require a visa.  You should be aware that visa violations can be treated as a criminal offence and could result in a fine or a short detention.
 
Journalists’ visas often have additional travel restrictions, which should be observed.
 
For further information consult the High Commission for The Islamic Republic of Pakistan in London.
 
British nationals travelling on a Pakistani passport will need the appropriate visa to re-enter the UK.  Children need their own passports.
 
Passport validity
 
Your passport has to be valid for a minimum of six months. 
 
Registration

There is a legal requirement for some foreign nationals to register with the Police after arrival in Pakistan.  All foreign nationals are required to register when visiting the Northern Areas.  If you are stopped by the Police for any reason, and you have not registered then you are likely to be arrested.  If in doubt, you should check with the Pakistani representation in the UK before travelling to see if this affects you.
 
Travelling with children
 
A parent or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that the immigration authorities demand documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing the children to leave the country, especially those of Pakistani origin.

Health

Outside the major cities there are few hospitals of UK standards.

Malaria and dengue fever exist in Pakistan, in coastal and low-lying areas.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 84,000 adults aged 15 or over in Pakistan were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.1% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Pakistan and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
 
For more general health information see Travel Health.

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Multiple poultry outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) have been occurring in Pakistan since 2006.  In 2007 there were also outbreaks in wild birds.  Most outbreaks discovered have been in North West Frontier Province, in Abbottabad and Mansehra.  Two cases of Avian Influenza were identified in farms in Karachi  in February 2008.  Cases of infection in wild birds have been identified in the Islamabad Capital Territory. In November 2007, there was one confirmed human death in the Peshawar area.

Since the end of 2003, a number of human deaths have also occurred in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

The risk from Avian Influenza is believed to be low provide you avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of the possibility that the Avian Influenza outbreaks could lead at some point to a human flu pandemic, if the virus mutates to a form easily transmissible between people.

British nationals living longer term in an Avian Influenza affected region should take personal responsibility for their own safety in the event of a future pandemic, including considering their access to adequate healthcare and ensuring travel documents are up to date.  

You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed advice and information.  
 
Natural Disasters

Earth tremors are common and mountainous areas regularly experience floods and landslides.
 
On 8 October 2005, a catastrophic earthquake with its epicentre near Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-administered Kashmir caused widespread damage and loss of life.  Infrastructure and services in northern Pakistani-administered Kashmir and surrounding areas were severely disrupted.  The main devastation was in the towns of Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot, Bagh, Balakot and Mansehra but the affected areas are now largely operational again.

General

Insurance

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling, including cover for medical repatriation costs.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  Please see Travel Insurance.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas, then see this is how we help.

Registering with the British High Commission

We strongly recommend you register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.

The British High Commission also provides a free SMS alert service with updates on the security situation.  Visit our website for more details on the benefits of registering with the British High Commission:  www.britainonline.org.pk.

Forced marriage and child abductions

Much of our Consular assistance is provided to victims of forced marriage or child abduction.  If you are concerned about a forced marriage or child abduction, see our separate guidance using the following links:

Forced marriages

Child Abductions

Purchasing property

Among British nationals of Pakistani origin we are often asked for assistance with land or property ownership disputes.  You should consider taking legal advice before entering into any agreement over the ownership or use of property or other assets.  The British High Commission cannot intervene in these matters.  

Contact Details
 
Islamabad
 
Address:  British High Commission
Diplomatic Enclave
Ramna 5
P O Box 1122
Islamabad
 
Telephone:  00 92 51 201 2000 (Main Switchboard)
 
Facsimile:  00 92 51 282 3439 (Management Section Fax)
                    00 92 51 282 4728 (Visa Section Fax)
                    00 92 51 282 9355 (Visa Section Fax)
                    00 92 51 201 2031 (Trade and Investment Fax)
                    00 92 51 201 2033 (Media & Public Affairs Fax)
                    00 92 51 201 2019 (Consular Section Fax)
 
Email:  visqry.Islamabad@fco.gov.uk (Visa)
Cons.Islamabad@fco.gov.uk (Consular)
bhc-ukti@dsl.net.pk (Trad and Investment Fax)
bhcmedia@dsl.net.pk  (Media and Public Affairs Section)
 
Office Hours:
GMT:
Mon-Thurs: 0300-1115; Fri: 0300-0800
Local Time:
Mon-Thurs: 0800-1615; Fri: 0800-1300
 
Website:  www.britainonline.org.uk
 
Karachi
 
Address:  British Deputy High Commission
Shahrah-e-Iran
Clifton
Karachi 75600
Pakistan
 
Telephone:  00 92 21 582 7000
Facsimile:  00 92 21 582 7005 (Trade & Investment)
                 00 92 21 582 7012 (Consular)
 
Email:  Consularenquiries.Karachi@fco.gov.uk (Consular)
Tradeuk@cyber.net.pk (Trade & Investment)
 
Website:  www.britainonline.org.pk 

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