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Pakistan Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Feb 02, 2011

The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Pakistan. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated July 22, 2010, updating information on security incidents and reminding U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.

The presence of Al-Qaida, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Terrorists and their sympathizers regularly attack civilian, government, and foreign targets, particularly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. 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 U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events. 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. and other Western 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. U.S. 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. U.S. 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 January 2010, terrorists have executed coordinated attacks with multiple operatives using portable weaponry such as guns, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and suicide vests or car bombs in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi. Recent attacks included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites such as the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, police offices in Lahore and Karachi, military installations in Lahore, religious shrines, including the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore and the Baba Farid Ganj Shakar shrine in southern Punjab, religious processions in Lahore, a hospital in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and a food distribution center in Bajaur Agency.

There have also been targeted attacks on Pakistani politicians, a provincial minister in Balochistan, university faculty in Swat, and an Iranian diplomat in Peshawar. Salman Taseer, governor of the Punjab province, was assassinated in Islamabad in January 2011, and suicide bomb attacks have occurred at an Islamabad university, schools, rallies, places of worship, and major marketplaces in Lahore and Peshawar.

Reports of religious intolerance rose in 2010. Members of minority communities, including a U.S. citizen, were victims of targeted killings. There was also an increase in accusations of blasphemy against Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Local authorities are generally less responsive and do not operate with the level of professionalism that U.S. citizens may be accustomed to in the United States.

U.S. citizens have been victims of attacks in the last few years. For example, on April 5, 2010, a complex attack on the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was carried out, with several Pakistani security and military personnel killed or wounded. On February 3, 2010, 10 persons, including 3 U.S. military personnel, were killed and 70 injured in a suicide bombing at a new girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The October 2009 attack on the World Food Program headquarters resulted in the serious injury of a U.S. citizen. On November 12, 2008, a U.S. citizen contractor and his driver in Peshawar were shot and killed in their car. In September 2008, over 50 people, including 3 U.S. citizens, 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 a U.S. diplomat in Peshawar. In March 2008, a restaurant frequented by Westerners in Islamabad was bombed, killing a patron and seriously injuring several others, including 4 U.S. diplomats. On March 2, 2006, a U.S. diplomat, a Consulate employee, and 3 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.

U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan have also been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons. In February 2009, a U.S. UNHCR official was kidnapped in Balochistan Province. In 2010, a U.S. citizen child was kidnapped in Karachi. Kidnappings of Pakistanis also increased dramatically across the country, usually for ransom.

Access to many areas of Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (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 U.S. officials. Travel to much of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Balochistan is also restricted.

Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur regularly throughout Pakistan on very short notice. Demonstrations have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character, and U.S. citizens are urged to avoid large gatherings.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Pakistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to enroll with the Embassy in Islamabad or the Consulates General in Karachi, Lahore, or Peshawar. This enrollment can be completed online through the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) available on the State Department website at https://travelregistration.state.gov. Alternatively, U.S. citizens without Internet access should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate for information on registering in person. Enrollment 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 U.S. citizens 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 U.S. citizens that even peaceful demonstrations may become violent and advises U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations. U.S. citizens should avoid setting patterns by varying times and routes for all required travel. U.S. citizens 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 U.S. 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. The Embassy website is available at http://islamabad.usembassy.gov/.

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi is located at Plot 3-5 New TPX Area, Mai Kolachi Road. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance should call the Consular Section in Karachi. Telephone: (92-21) 3527-5000. The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi website is available at http://karachi.usconsulate.gov/.

The U.S. Consulate General 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- 4212. The U.S. Consulate General in Lahore website is available at http://lahore.usconsulate.gov/

The U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar. Telephone: (92-91) 526-8800; Fax: (92-91) 528-4171. The U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar website is available at http://peshawar.usconsulate.gov/

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at where the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Country Specific Information for Pakistan 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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