This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad,
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 travel due
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.
Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad 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.
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.
There is moderate risk from crime in Islamabad.
Statistical data on crime suffer from underreporting and inaccuracies. There
are often broad discrepancies in the types and frequency of crimes reported in
media and non-governmental reports compared to the official statistics offered
by the Government of Pakistan.
Street crimes (e.g. pickpocketing, purse
snatchings, mobile phone theft, and other crimes of opportunity) are common. The
frequency of these crimes increases with distance from the
government-controlled city center of Islamabad, commonly referred to as the red
zone. In general, street crime is more prevalent in Rawalpindi than Islamabad.
Major crimes remain a concern. According to available
statistics, the number of reported violent and non-violent crimes in the
Islamabad Capital Territory has remained relatively steady over the past two
years. This includes residential crimes, such as burglaries and vandalism. Armed
guards protect all residences owned or leased by the U.S. Embassy.
Authorities do not document sexual assaults in
Islamabad accurately. Open-source reporting indicates that sexual crimes and
gender-based violence, including honor killings, are common in Pakistan, as are
cases of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
Avoid ATMs that are isolated or not protected
from tampering, and examine them for skimming devices before use. For more
information, review OSAC’s report, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
Check fraud is one of the most frequently
reported crimes in Pakistan.
Cybersecurity concerns in Pakistan are growing,
particularly in large urban centers. Take precautions with personal devices to
keep them secure from hacking and physical tampering.
Other Areas of Concern
U.S. government employees may not stay
overnight in local hotels anywhere in the country, except in exceptional
circumstances. Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Embassy sometimes
places areas such as tourist attractions, hotels, markets, shopping malls, and
restaurants off-limits to official personnel. U.S. government employees are
generally restricted to the E, F, and G sectors of Islamabad, closest to the
Diplomatic Enclave. Travel to other areas of Islamabad is restricted except for
travel related to official business.
All U.S. citizens who do not also possess
Pakistani citizenship must obtain advance permission from the Pakistani
government to travel to areas considered sensitive or dangerous. Examples
include the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas and many areas in the
Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa providences.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Although better in Islamabad than surrounding
areas, road safety is a concern throughout Pakistan. Vehicles must be right-side
drive, and travel is on the left side of the road. Drivers generally observe traffic
laws in Islamabad, but rarely do outside the city center. Traffic congestion is
common, and drivers often maneuver erratically. Traffic signals frequently
malfunction, resulting in hazardous intersections and delays. In areas outside
of Islamabad, traffic control systems are scarce, and road conditions are
Vehicular collisions frequently draw crowds,
which can become violent. Depending on the area of the accident, police
response may be significantly delayed or not occur at all. Injured parties often
use private vehicles for transport to the closest hospital. Bystanders may
demand that the person perceived to be at fault transported the injured to a
hospital. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s report, Driving Overseas: Best
Public Transportation Conditions
Avoid all trains, taxis, and other forms of
public transportation or online taxi services. U.S. government personnel may
not use any type of overland public transportation.
Threats to civil aviation in Pakistan are not
limited to attacks in which militants target airports. The U.S. government is
aware of narcotics smuggled onto flights from Pakistan, which may indicate
broader security vulnerabilities at Pakistani airports.
The U.S. Embassy has restricted U.S. government
personnel from travel on certain Pakistani military aircraft due to issues with
safety and maintenance. Exercise caution when traveling within Pakistan on such
official aircraft; verify the airworthiness of aircraft in planned flights, or
avoid this means of conveyance until verification.
The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority is a member
of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Islamabad International
Airport (ISB) has significant security resources devoted to its protection, but
is a frequent target of attempted and aspirational terror plots. U.S.
government employees must use armored vehicles to travel to and from the
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism
There is serious risk from terrorism in
Islamabad. Despite notable gains against some groups in recent years, numerous
terrorist organizations continue to operate in parts of Pakistan. Islamabad
benefits from more security resources and infrastructure than the rest of the
country, although the capital remains an attractive target due to the
prevalence of government institutions, foreign missions, and administration
officials. Terrorist attacks have declined in frequency but still take place in
different parts of the country. Security forces continue to conduct operations
against extremist elements in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan Provinces.
Security forces also conduct irregular or ad hoc operations against terrorist
groups in other provinces, including Sindh and Punjab provinces.
Notwithstanding national statistics that show
terrorist violence across Pakistan is at its lowest level in the past decade,
the result of a steady decline since a 2008-2009 spike, terrorist organizations
remain active, and numerous notable terror incidents occurred in Pakistan
U.S. government personnel and facilities have
consistently remained targets for terror groups in Pakistan. Western
organizations including businesses also remain attractive targets. U.S.
government officials working in Islamabad must vary their routines to reduce
predictability, limit public exposure, and avoid loitering in markets and
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is considerable risk from civil unrest in
Islamabad. Protests and demonstrations can form unexpectedly and risk becoming
violent. Avoid large gatherings and processions. Large protests have proven
difficult for the government to control, and have led to citywide traffic
disruptions, damage to property, and violent incidents.
Sectarian violence has occurred on numerous
occasions and continues to be a concern, especially around religious holidays
and in areas with significant religious minority populations. Religious events,
institutions, and gathering places such as markets frequented by minority
populations have been targets of sectarian attacks and unrest.
Islamabad is subject to seismic activity. Earthquakes
can occur without warning. Most buildings and residences do not meet any
seismic standard. Although there are emergency response organizations in
Islamabad, a large-scale disaster would quickly overwhelm response
capabilities. Proper stocks of supplies and an earthquake plan are necessary in
this region. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Central Asia Earthquake Preparedness.
During the winter, air pollution reaches
significant levels and can present health hazards, particularly to individuals
who suffer from respiratory diseases.
Infrastructure in the city center of Islamabad
is much better than in surrounding areas and Rawalpindi. Running water and
natural gas are available in many of the neighborhoods in/around Islamabad.
Lack of code enforcement has led to a
proliferation of unsafe buildings and structures, including leaking and
defective natural gas infrastructure.
In Islamabad, high-speed internet is readily
available in most neighborhoods. Areas outside of urban centers have
significantly less communication infrastructure. In cities, the government
shuts down cellular service during emergencies and civil unrest. Maintain
multiple forms of communication.
Counterfeit goods and pirated entertainment are
readily available. Only exchange currency at recognized banks.
Personal Identity Concerns
The Embassy regularly receives reports of U.S. females
subjected to domestic abuse and violence. U.S. females have had their passports
confiscated by male family members who seek to control their freedom of
movement. In other cases, U.S. females are brought to Pakistan by family
members and forced to marry against their will. Despite the fact that many of
these cases are not taken seriously, when U.S. citizens find themselves in
life-threatening situations, they should contact the police for immediate
assistance. There are non-governmental organizations that assist victimized
women, reachable via American Citizen Services.
Members of the LGBTI community will find
Pakistan difficult, and, at worst, dangerous. Pakistan’s socially conservative
society tends to disapprove of LGBTI individuals, although some media reports
indicate more progressive views are evolving in larger cities. More detailed
information about LGBT rights in Pakistan is available in the State Department’s
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
Individuals with disabilities will find
significantly less accessibility and accommodation compared to the U.S. Accessibility
infrastructure is limited in major urban centers, and is nearly non-existent
With the exception of publicized drug seizures
related to transnational counter-narcotics efforts, drug-related crimes are not
well documented. While illicit drug use occurs, information concerning its
frequency, type, and proliferation, typically comes from non-governmental
organization and open-source reporting.
Kidnapping is a serious threat throughout
Pakistan. Extremist groups and criminals have targeted business owners and
prominent families to finance terror operations and profit through ransom. U.S.
citizens and foreign nationals working for non-government organizations have
been targets. There is also significant reporting on U.S. citizens kidnapped in
other countries held in Pakistan. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Although Islamabad has a large police
department, resource constraints affect the efficacy of police operations. Low
salaries and a lack of equipment are pervasive issues throughout the country,
although authorities devote significant resources to government buildings in
Islamabad. Police corruption is an issue throughout Pakistan, but is
significantly less of a problem in Islamabad.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or
If arrested or detained, U.S. citizens should
request that Pakistani authorities immediately notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest
Consulate. Government of Pakistan formalities may delay consular access by 20
business days or more.
Crime Victim Assistance
Travelers can contact the police by dialing 15.
U.S. citizens should report crimes committed
against them to the police and the U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services
section at (+92) 51-201-4000 or 5000.
Travelers can contact ambulance services by
In general, effective emergency medical care is
available only in major cities. Most hospitals possess limited advanced life
support equipment. Their level of care varies but is typically less than that
of hospitals in the U.S.
Contact Information for Available Medical
A list of doctors and hospitals in the
Islamabad Consular District is on the Embassy’s website.
Air Ambulance Services
Several air ambulance companies provide service
to Pakistan. Research the availability and quality of air ambulance services
and make an informed choice based on individual requirements.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health
Consider purchasing medical and medical
evacuation (medevac) insurance before traveling to Pakistan. Medevac can be
prohibitively expensive, and patients must usually secure payment or prove
insurance prior to service.
Water quality and sanitation standards in
Islamabad are better in Islamabad than in the rural areas of Pakistan, but the U.S.
government advises employees against drinking tap water. For more information,
refer to OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My
The CDC offers additional information on
vaccines and health guidance for Pakistan.
Country Council Information
The Country Council in Islamabad meets semi-annually.
Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s
South & Central Asia team with any questions.
Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Islamabad: Diplomatic Enclave,
Monday-Friday, 0800 – 1630
Embassy Contact Numbers
Telephone: 011 92-51 201 4000
Emergency Contact Information: 011 92-51 201
Nearby Posts: Consulate Karachi,
The U.S. Department of State strongly
encourages U.S. travelers to Pakistan to enroll in the U.S. Department of
State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to their 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. U.S.
Consulate General Peshawar does not provide routine consular services.
Additional Resource: Pakistan Country Information