This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in the Islamabad and Rawalpindi Consular District. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Pakistan country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
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. Do not travel to Balochistan Province and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province,
including the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, due to terrorism and
kidnapping; or to the immediate vicinity of the Line of Control due to
terrorism and the potential for armed conflict. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Department of State has assessed Islamabad as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Crime statistical data can be underreported or inaccurate. According to
available statistics, the number of reported crimes in the Islamabad Capital
Territory has remained relatively steady over the past two years. This includes
residential crimes such burglary, robbery, theft, and assaults. The U.S.
Embassy uses residential guards, which is a common practice.
Government personnel may not stay overnight in hotels except in exceptional
circumstances. Depending on 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 personnel 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. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs, and Considerations for
crimes (e.g., pickpocketing, purse snatchings, mobile phone theft) 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. Review
OSAC’s report, All That You Should
ATMs that are isolated or not protected from tampering and examine them for
skimming devices before use. Review OSAC’s report, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
As in any location, maintain good
cybersecurity awareness and take precautions with personal devices to keep them
secure from hacking and physical tampering.
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing
Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices:
Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or
Road Safety and Road Conditions
U.S. citizens require advance permission from the Pakistani government to
travel to areas considered sensitive or dangerous. Examples include the former
Federally Administered Tribal Areas and areas in the Balochistan and Khyber
regard for traffic laws and traffic conditions is common. Vehicles must be
right-side drive, and travel is on the left side of the road. Safety and road
worthiness of vehicles may not be well-maintained. Traffic congestion is
common, and drivers often maneuver erratically. Traffic signals occasionally
malfunction, resulting in precarious intersections and delays. In some areas
outside of Islamabad, traffic control systems are limited, and road conditions
collisions frequently draw crowds and can become violent. Depending on the area
of the accident, police response may be delayed or not occur at all. Injured
parties often use private vehicles for transport to the closest hospital. Review
OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State
Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
of overland public transportation such as trains, taxis, and other forms of
public transportation or online taxi services is not approved for U.S. Government
personnel. Review OSAC’s report, Security
in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority is a member of the
International Civil Aviation Organization. In the past, there have been risks
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. 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
Islamabad International Airport (ISB) has significant security resources
devoted to its protection, but has been a target in the past for attempted and
aspirational terror plots. U.S. Government personnel must use armored vehicles for
travel to and from the airport.
U.S. Embassy restricts U.S. Government personnel from traveling on certain
Pakistan military aircraft due to issues with safety and maintenance. Travelers
should verify airworthiness or avoid this means of conveyance.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Islamabad as being a CRITICAL-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. Terrorists have targeted U.S. diplomats and diplomatic facilities in
the past. Notwithstanding, national statistics 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. Although Pakistan’s security environment has
improved substantially, terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in
Pakistan. Local history of terrorism and ongoing ideological aspirations of
violence by extremist elements have led to indiscriminate attacks on civilian
as well as local military and police targets. Terrorists may attack with little
or no warning, targeting transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, military
installations, airports, universities, tourist locations, schools, hospitals,
places of worship, and government facilities.
have targeted U.S. diplomats and diplomatic facilities in the past. U.S.
government personnel may not stay overnight in local hotels anywhere in the
country, except in exceptional circumstances. Depending on ongoing security
assessments, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates sometimes place areas such as
tourist attractions, hotels, markets, shopping malls, and restaurants
off-limits to official personnel.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Islamabad as being a HIGH-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
protests can prove difficult to control and have led to citywide traffic
disruptions, damage to property, and violent incidents. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
demonstrations or periods of civil unrest, the Pakistani government has in the
past disabled cellular telephone and internet service, making it difficult for
individuals to contact each other or the U.S. Embassy or Consulates.
and spontaneous protests and demonstrations do occur. In 2019, police and
security forces effectively controlled these gatherings. There were no
significant acts of violence related to civil unrest. Most protests and
demonstrations are anti-government in nature, with student issues, utility/fuel
shortages, and political grievances as the most common reasons for protests.
security services stay alert to the potential for sectarian violence. Religious
events, institutions, and gathering places such as markets frequented by
minority populations have been targets of sectarian attacks and unrest,
especially around religious holidays and in areas with significant religious
Pakistan is subject to
seismic activity. Earthquakes can occur without warning. Most buildings and
residences do not meet seismic standards. Although there are emergency response
organizations in Islamabad, a large-scale disaster could quickly overwhelm
response capabilities. Sufficient stock of supplies and an earthquake plan are recommended
in this region. Review OSAC’s report, Central
Asia Earthquake Preparedness.
quality is a significant environmental problem across Pakistan, varies by city,
and fluctuates depending on the season and local weather patterns. Follow the U.S.
Mission Pakistan Air Quality
Program twitter feed for Islamabad.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
of code enforcement has led to unsafe buildings and structures, including
leaking and defective natural gas infrastructure.
Islamabad, high-speed internet is readily available in most neighborhoods.
Areas outside of urban centers have less communication infrastructure. In
cities, the government may shut down cellular service during emergencies and
civil unrest. Maintain multiple forms of communication.
Economics Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft
goods and pirated entertainment are readily available. Only exchange currency
at recognized banks.
citizens have been the victims of kidnapping, assault, or threats by family
members in response to family disputes over property. Land disputes are common
in Pakistan and are often difficult to resolve through legal channels. The U.S.
Embassy and Consulates cannot protect personal property, and cannot take sides
in a legal dispute. Those wishing to purchase property should be aware of the
risks, including not being physically present to oversee property. Those
involved in a court dispute run the risk of having cases filed against them,
and they may face arrest and imprisonment. In March 2019, two doctors,
including one U.S. national, were kidnapped and murdered in Taxila. The
suspects confessed to wanting to steal land owned by the U.S. doctor.
Pakistan is largely a cash economy. Neither personal nor travelers’
checks are commonly accepted in Pakistan. Outside major cities, credit cards
are generally not accepted, and there have been numerous reports of credit card
fraud. There are bank branches as well as registered currency exchangers and
ATMs in all international airports. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
access to personally identifiable information (PII) is quite possible. Few
holders of PII employ adequate safeguards and access controls to prevent
dissemination of sensitive personal information. Official intrusions into
personal privacy are also common.
Personal Identity Concerns
U.S. females have been subject to domestic abuse and violence, and
have had their passports confiscated by male family members seeking to control
their freedom of movement. Females have been brought to Pakistan by family
members and forced to marry against their will. Women who attempt to report
these kinds of cases to local police might find their complaints not taken
seriously. U.S. citizens in life-threatening situations should contact the
police for immediate assistance, and contact U.S. Embassy or its Consulates. Some
Pakistani NGOs can assist victimized women within the Pakistani community.
Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.
Authorities may not document
sexual assaults accurately. Open-source reporting indicates that sexual crimes
and gender-based violence, including honor-killings occur, as do cases of human
trafficking and migrant smuggling.
sexual conduct is a criminal offense in Pakistan. While the government rarely
prosecutes cases, society generally shuns LGBTI+ persons, and violence and
discrimination against LGBTI+ persons occur frequently. The penalty for same-sex
relations is a fine, imprisonment (sentences ranging from two years to life
imprisonment), or both. No laws protect against discrimination based on sexual
orientation or gender identity, and LGBTI+ persons rarely reveal their sexual
orientation or gender identity. Socially conservative elements of the
local society tend to disapprove of LGBTI+ individuals, although media
reporting indicates more progressive views are evolving, particularly in larger
cities. Members of the LGBTI+ community may find Pakistan difficult, and, at
worst, dangerous. More detailed information about LGBTI+ rights in Pakistan is available
in the State
Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the department’s
webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
in Pakistan, individuals with disabilities can find accessibility and
accommodation difficult. The law provides for equality of rights of persons
with disabilities, but legal provisions are not always implemented in practice.
Families typically care for most individuals with physical and mental
disabilities. Access for individuals with physical disabilities to public
facilities is very limited in major cities and almost non-existent outside
major population centers. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.
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 organizations and
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.
remains a concern 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, and U.S. citizens have been kidnapped
in other countries and held in Pakistan. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
emergency line in Pakistan is 15. Although Islamabad has a large police
department, resource constraints affect the efficiency of police operations. Low
salaries and a lack of equipment are pervasive issues throughout the country,
although authorities devote significant resources to government buildings and
activities in Islamabad. Police corruption is an issue throughout Pakistan, but
is significantly less of a problem in Islamabad.
or detained U.S. citizens should request that Pakistani authorities immediately
notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest Consulate. Pakistani government formalities
may delay consular access by 20 business days or more. Download the State
Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
can contact ambulance services by dialing 1122.
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 United
States. Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.
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. The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas
quality and sanitation standards are better in Islamabad than in the rural
areas of Pakistan. The U.S. Government advises personnel against drinking tap
water. For more information, refer to OSAC’s report, I’m
Drinking What in My Water?
published a travel
notice in 2018
warning travelers of an outbreak of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid in
Pakistan and its potential to cause cases of typhoid in the United States and
other countries through travelers returning from Pakistan. The notice describes
the nature of XDR typhoid and its lack of response to many antibiotics, and
offers advice on preventing and treating the disease. The notice also states
that while all travelers to Pakistan are at risk of getting XDR typhoid, those
visiting friends or relatives have a higher risk of contracting XDR typhoid and
infectious diseases generally because they normally stay longer, eat more local
food in homes, and take fewer precautions than tourists or business travelers.
travelers (even short-term travelers) to South Asia, including Pakistan, should
receive vaccination against typhoid fever. Two typhoid fever vaccines are
available in the United States — an oral vaccine and an injectable vaccine. The
oral vaccine is available to people who are at least six years old and should
be given at least one week before travel. The injectable vaccine is available
to people who are at least two years old and should be given at least two weeks
CDC recommends vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, Japanese
encephalitis (for prolonged travel), polio, and rabies. Prevent mosquito 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.
Pakistani government has implemented the polio vaccination for travelers’
guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization. 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
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Pakistan. Review
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Medication, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and
Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council Information
OSAC Country Council in Islamabad meets periodically. Interested private-sector
security managers should contact OSAC’s
South & Central Asia team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5,
Monday-Friday, 0800 – 1630
Telephone: +92-51 201 4000
Emergency Contact Information: +92-51
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Pakistan:
Karachi, Plot 3, 4, 5, New TPX Area Mai
Kolachi Road, Karachi. (+92) (21) 3527-5000.
Shahrah-e-Abdul Hameed Bin Badees, (Old Empress Road) near Shimla Hill, Lahore.
- Consulate Peshawar,
11, Hospital Road, Peshawar. (+92) 091-526-8800. U.S. Consulate General
Peshawar does not provide routine consular services.
you travel, consider the following resources: