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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Pakistan 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Karachi


This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan.

 

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses most of Pakistan at Level 3, indicating travelers should reconsider traveldue to terrorism. Some areas have increased risk: Do Not Travel to Balochistan province and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, including the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), due to terrorism and kidnapping; or to the Azad Kashmir area due to terrorism and the potential for armed conflict.

 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

 

Please review OSAC’s Pakistan-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

 

Crime Threats

 

There is considerable risk from crime in Karachi. U.S. citizens and interests, along with other Westerners, are at risk of being targets of violence. Crime and safety in Karachi remain major concerns. Reporting indicates that the security situation in Karachi has improved from years past; however, street crimes remain frequent.

 

The Consulate considers many areas in Karachi to be unsafe due to high crime, lack of effective police control, and the presence of extremist elements. The areas in Karachi least prone to crime include the neighborhoods of Clifton, D.H.A., and PECHS, but even these areas experience serious crimes and thefts. Although the Sindh Rangers and the Sindh police continue large-scale security operations resulting in improvements in several categories, the violent crime rate remains high. According to Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) statistics for 2018, the number of violent crimes (e.g. murder, kidnapping for ransom) went down as compared to 2017, and is significantly lower than 2016. Improvements in Sindh province continue. However, phone theft/snatching and motorcycle theft are common, and have increased significantly in 2018.

 

Crimes and scams are common in Karachi, and include cell-phone theft, credit card fraud, and counterfeit-money schemes. All travelers should exercise caution with investment and property transactions.

 

The use of skimming devices on ATMs has risen in the city, which police attribute to Chinese organized crime groups. Some police and business contacts have expressed concern about emerging cases of fraud and counterfeit products from these groups, which they view as a side effect of the large influx of Chinese nationals working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). For more information, review OSAC’s report, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

 

Leave an itinerary with a colleague or friend so they know your whereabouts. Avoid high-risk areas, crowds, and civil disturbances. U.S. officials must restrict the frequency of their movements and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, shopping centers, restaurants, and other locations. Depending on ongoing security assessments and as part of routine operational security measures, the U.S. Consulate often places areas such as hotels, markets, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel. U.S. government and official travelers usually receive on-compound lodging.

 

Other Areas of Concern

 

Travel in Karachi and Sindh province, in general, is not difficult to facilitate provided documents and permissions are in place prior to travel. It is difficult to obtain Pakistan government approval to travel in/around Balochistan.

 

Crime and safety are significant concerns throughout the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Consider most parts of Balochistan, including Quetta – which has again experienced high levels of violence in 2018 – dangerous and volatile.

 

The Consulate recommends not traveling to most areas of northern and eastern Karachi due to the frequency of criminal activity. Criminal/political gangs sympathetic to extremist organizations, and suspicious of or hostile to Westerners, often control these areas.

 

Transportation-Safety Situation

 

For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

 

Road Safety and Road Conditions

 

Vehicles are right-side drive, and traffic moves on the left side of the road. Driving is chaotic and undisciplined. It is common for intersections to have non-working traffic lights. Drivers might not stay in lanes, use turning etiquette, or use mirrors. Driving outside the city at night is unsafe. Traffic is extremely heavy on weekdays, especially during normal commuting hours, but is generally lighter on the weekends. Aside from the main arteries through the city, roads are narrow, poorly illuminated in many areas, and not well marked/maintained.

 

Accidents are common; motorists sometimes become violent when involved in routine collisions. Police generally do not respond to vehicle accidents, and there are no effective emergency medical response services. If an individual is involved in a motor accident is in fear of his/her personal safety, s/he may depart the area, but should proceed immediately to the nearest police station to report the incident.

 

Roads in many parts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces are in disrepair. Highway robbery and banditry are frequent occurrences, especially in areas of Balochistan the government has difficulty controlling.

 

U.S. employees of the Consulate may not self-drive, ride motorcycles, bicycle, or walk along city streets. All U.S. employees of the Consulate must travel in armored vehicles for both official and unofficial movements.

 

Public Transportation Conditions

 

Avoid public transportation. U.S. Government employees may not use any public ground transportation (e.g. buses, taxis, rickshaws, trains).

 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

 

There is a risk to U.S. civil aviation operating in the territory and airspace of Pakistan, particularly at low altitude, during the arrival/departure phases of flight, and when on the ground, due to extremist/militant activity.

 

·         During the 2015 attack on Jiwani Airport (JIW) in Balochistan province, extremists/militants destroyed an air-traffic control radar.

·         In June 2014, extremists/militants attacked Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport (KHI), resulting in over 30 deaths and damaging airport facilities.

·         Commercial aviation safety standards among Pakistani carriers remain an issue of concern.

 

Terrorism Threat

 

There is serious risk from terrorism in Karachi. Reconsider travel to Pakistan due to terrorism. Do not travel to Balochistan province due to terrorism.

 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

 

The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a danger to U.S. travelers throughout Pakistan. Karachi and other areas of Sindh and Balochistan provinces continue to experience high levels of violence characterized by bombings, targeted killings, sectarian strife, extortion, kidnappings for ransom, and frequent demonstrations that can turn violent without warning. Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) remain the most active terrorist organizations; each maintains the capability to plan and execute major attacks. Various separatist groups and ISIS members have claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks.

 

Incidents of terrorism and politically-motivated violence in Karachi, the remainder of Sindh province, and especially Balochistan province occur with regular frequency. A variety of groups, ranging from extremist religious elements to criminal gangs associated with local political organizations orchestrate bombings, assassinations, and other acts of violence in Karachi with grim regularity, to include attacks on police/security forces:

 

  • In December 2018, six security personnel died and 14 others sustained injuries in a gun attack on a convoy of the Frontier Corps in Kech, Balochistan. Four terrorists also died in the exchange of fire.
  • In November 2018, three attackers killed two police officers and two civilians in an attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi.
  • In November 2018, three Frontier Corps (FC) personnel died and four others sustained injuries in a roadside bomb blast in the Margat coalmine area near Quetta, Balochistan.
  • In October 2018, five members of a security force died and eight others sustained injuries in a roadside bomb attack in Pirandar area of Awaran, Balochistan.
  • In October 2018, five construction workers died and three others sustained injuries in an attack near Ganz area of Jewani in Gwadar district, Balochistan.
  • In September 2018, three Levies personnel died and two others sustained injuries in a remote-controlled motorbike blast targeting a vehicle in Pishin district, Balochistan.
  • In July 2018, Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) candidate for a Provincial Assembly seat, died along with 131 other people in a suicide attack in the Mastung, Balochistan. At least 180 additional people sustained injuries.
  • In July 2018, 31 people died and 70 sustained injuries in a suicide bombing outside a polling station in Eastern Bypass of Quetta, Balochistan. Quetta police DIG Abdul Razzaq Cheema survived the suicide attack.
  • In July 2018, six security personnel died and another two sustained injuries in a rocket attack on a bomb disposal team in the Mashkay area of Awaran, Balochistan.
  • In July 2018, three security personnel and a civilian died while 13 others sustained injuries after a military convoy on election duty came under attack in Turbat, Balochistan.
  • In June 2018, three security personnel died and two others sustained injuries in a suicide bombing at a checkpost at the Quetta-Karachi highway in Mastung, Balochistan.
  • In June 2018, three people died in an attack on their vehicle in the Killi Bangulzai area on the outskirts of Quetta, Balochistan.
  • In May 2018, security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack on a Frontier Corps facility, killing five suicide bombers.
  • In May 2018, six laborers were gunned down and another sustained injuries in the Lejah area of Kharan, Balochistan.
  • In April 2018, four members of a Christian family died and one sustained injuries in a targeted attack in Quetta, Balochistan.
  • In February 2018, four Frontier Corps (FC) personnel died and six others sustained injuries in a suicide attack on an FC check post in Nosahar Khooni Talab area of Quetta, Balochistan.
  • In February 2018, four Frontier Corps (FC) personnel died when unknown assailants opened fire on them on Sariab Road in Quetta, Balochistan.
  • In January 2018, five security personnel and two civilians died and 25 others sustained injuries in a suicide attack near the GPO Chowk area in Quetta, Balochistan.
  • In January 2018, five security personnel died and six others sustained injuries in an attack in the Shapok area of Turbat town in Kech district, Balochistan.

 

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

 

There were multiple anti-U.S. demonstrations in Karachi in 2018, most attracting crowds numbering in the hundreds, but with some crowds as large as 5,000 participants.

 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

 

Civil Unrest

 

There is considerable risk from civil unrest in Karachi. Political/sectarian civil unrest in Karachi can erupt anywhere without warning, and can evolve quickly into violent mobs. Criminal gangs affiliated with political parties created much of the uncontrolled violence prevalent in Karachi before 2015, but this activity has become less significant in recent years. Transportation strikes and shutdowns occur frequently throughout the city, often in reaction to sectarian violence or political interests, or in protest of government policies.

 

Police have demonstrated the capability to mobilize quickly and have been effective in protecting diplomatic facilities and Pakistani government buildings in Karachi.

 

Religious/Ethnic Violence

 

Incidents of sectarian/ethnic violence in Karachi, the remainder of Sindh province, and in the Balochistan province continue. A variety of groups representing extremist elements associated with Sunni and Shia sects carry out bombings and assassinations. Minority religious sects and groups are frequent targets.

 

Post-specific Concerns

 

Environmental Hazards

 

Sindh province is prone to floods that, in recent years, have devastated infrastructure, agriculture, and industries, and caused significant loss of life. Many roads in Karachi, to include major thoroughfares, can flood with relatively small amounts of rain.

 

Pakistan is a seismically active area. In 2013, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck rural Balochistan, killing at least 825 people and destroying more than 21,000 homes. Lack of transportation infrastructure to the area, and local apprehension of working with emergency authorities contributed to Pakistan’s difficulty in responding quickly to the disaster. The region has experienced less powerful seismic activity since the 2013 earthquake.

 

Critical Infrastructure

 

Infrastructure receives little or no maintenance. If a major earthquake were to occur near Karachi, extensive damage and loss of life would follow due to poor and inadequate construction standards. Industrial safety and transportation standards fall well short of Western practices. There is little oversight or enforcement of government regulations or safety standards.

 

Most major hotels in Karachi employ local security firms, which provide adequate security. Firefighting resources are severely lacking. Take personal responsibility for your fire evacuation plan from the hotel; stay on a lower floor in a hotel. Avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures. For more information on fire safety in hotels, review OSAC’s report, Fire Safety Abroad.

 

Economic Concerns

 

Counterfeit goods are widely available. Many garment factories sell secondhand quality garments to local outlets, which sell them at a reduced price since they cannot be exported.

 

Privacy Concerns

 

Unauthorized access to personally identifiable information (PII) is quite possible. Few holders of information have adequate safeguards and access controls to prevent dissemination of sensitive personal information. Official intrusions into personal privacy are also common.

 

Personal Concerns

 

Men and women alike should dress conservatively, with arms and legs covered, and avoid walking alone, especially at night.

 

The Consulate continues to receive reports of female U.S. citizens subjected to domestic violence, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and forced marriage. There are reports of U.S. citizen women of Pakistani heritage tricked by their families into traveling to Pakistan and forced into marriage; those who refuse are sometimes threatened with violence and being disowned by their families, who often confiscate their belongings. There have also been numerous cases of U.S. females having their and their children’s passports confiscated by spouses/family members, and their movement severely restricted. Women who attempt to report these kinds of cases to local police might find their complaints not taken seriously. However, U.S. citizen women who find themselves in a life-threatening situation should call the police immediately. Some Pakistani NGOs can assist victimized women within the Pakistani community.

 

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offense; however, the government rarely prosecutes cases. LGBT persons rarely reveal their sexual orientation in Pakistan. No laws protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination against LGBT persons is widely acknowledged privately, but insufficient data exists for accurate reporting on these forms of discrimination, due in part to severe societal stigma and fear of recrimination for those who have come forward. Find more detailed information about LGBT rights in Pakistan in the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

 

Individuals with disabilities will find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is generally found in the U.S. Access for individuals with physical disabilities to public facilities is very limited in major cities, and almost non-existent outside major population centers. The law provides for equality of the rights of persons with disabilities, but the legal provisions are not always implemented. Families typically care for most individuals with physical and mental disabilities.

 

Drug-related Crimes

 

Police do not documented drug-related crimes well. While illicit drug use occurs, knowledge of its frequency, type, and proliferation remains based mostly on anecdotal evidence. Balochistan and Sindh are drug trafficking routes, with significant quantities of narcotics typically flowing south from Afghanistan for shipment by sea. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences in local prisons, heavy fines, and sometimes the death penalty.

 

Kidnapping Threat

 

Kidnapping remains a serious threat in Karachi and throughout the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Criminal and extremist groups often target local business people and prominent families to extort ransoms for profit or to finance operations. Families often negotiate and pay ransoms without police notification or involvement. U.S. citizens and foreign/local employees of NGOs have been targets for kidnapping. Authorities frequently do not catch or bring to justice groups that perpetrate kidnappings. Vetting of personnel and proper personal security procedures remain the key to avoiding this kind of crime. Do not become time and place predictable. Ensure any location you visit has secondary exits accessible in an emergency. Know the locations of and routes to, the nearest police stations and hospitals. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

 

Police Response

 

The police services operate below the professional standards of the U.S. due to a lack of training/resources and low salaries. Political influence affects the conduct of investigations, arrests, and prosecutions. The Karachi police have difficulty in responding to emergencies in many of the more violent areas of the city, and are actively denied access to some neighborhoods.

 

The Rangers’ high level of enforcement activity under the National Action Plan (NAP), instituted in 2015, continued through 2018 and further diminished capabilities of militant groups. The Rangers had been present in Karachi prior to 2015; however, the increased authority of the Rangers and police in the NAP reflect the focus on counterterrorism following a 2014 attack on an army school in Peshawar that killed over 130 children.

 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

 

If police arrest or detain you, do not make any admissions or statements, or sign documents without consulting an attorney. Ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Consulate immediately. Pakistani law enforcement authorities will typically not notify the U.S. Embassy/Consulate if they arrest or detain a foreign citizen unless you request they do so. Contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi at +92(21)3527-5000. The Consulate provides limited assistance with an arrestee’s immediate welfare and can provide local legal resource information and contacts.

 

Crime Victim Assistance

 

The emergency number for the police is 15. Report all serious crimes to police, or to the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee at +92(21)111-222-345.

 

Police/Security Agencies

 

The Special Police (SP) Foreigners Security Cells are responsible specifically for responding to any crime involving foreigners:

 

·         Karachi/Sindh SP Foreigners Security Cell: +92(21)9920-6530

·         Balochistan SP Foreigners Security Cell: +92(81)9201-1596

 

Medical Emergencies

 

The quality of hospital care and cleanliness is below U.S. standards. Emergency medical care is only available in larger cities.

 

There is no standard ambulance/emergency medical service in Karachi. A private service, Aman Ambulance Service, is the best available: +92(21)1021 or +92(21)111-112-626. Consider other ambulance services as transportation without emergency medical personnel.

 

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

 

For medical assistance, refer to the Consulate’s Medical Assistance page.

 

Available Air Ambulance Services

 

Emergency medical evacuation (medevac) by air is very expensive. Any personally funded medevac requires funding upfront. Insurers typically coordinate medevac directly with a contracted air ambulance service.

 

Insurance Guidance

 

Confirm overseas hospitalization and medical coverage with your insurer before travel. Medical facilities require pre-payment. Local hospitals generally do not accept insurance as payment; travelers must instead seek reimbursement from their insurers.

 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

 

Karachi is among the more polluted cities in the world; air quality remains poor, with many visitors experiencing upper respiratory illness and irritation.

 

Take steps to avoid tainted food and water. Water is not potable in Karachi, and sanitation in many restaurants is inadequate. Gastrointestinal illness is common and can be life-threatening. For more information, refer to OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?

 

The CDC recommends vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis (for prolonged travel), polio, and rabies. Prevent insect bites to avoid malaria and dengue fever. The Consulate Health unit considers the risk of malaria to be moderate and recommends medication to prevent the disease.

 

The Government of Pakistan has implemented the polio vaccination for travelers’ guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Authorities may ask travelers to show proof of recent polio vaccinations. Visitors who have stayed in Pakistan for longer than four weeks might have to show a yellow vaccination card certifying that they have received a dose of polio vaccine within the past year.

 

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Pakistan.

 

OSAC Country Council Information

 

The Karachi Country Council meets four times a year. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s South & Central Asia team with any questions.

 

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

 

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

 

U.S. Consulate General Karachi: Plots 3-5, New TPX Area, Mai Kolachi Road, Karachi

Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, 0800-1630

+92(21)3527-5000, 24 hours/7 days a week.

Website: https://pk.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/karachi/

 

Nearby Posts: Embassy Islamabad, Consulate General Lahore, Consulate General Peshawar

 

Consulate Guidance

 

Enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to travel. Doing so provides the U.S. Embassy/Consulate with emergency contact information, and allows travelers to receive emergency and security messages sent to U.S. citizens in Pakistan.

 

Additional Resource: Pakistan Country Information Sheet

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