Pakistan 2013 Crime and Safety Report: Karachi
Bombing; Kidnapping; Anti-American sentiment; Crime; Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; Religious Violence; Religious Terrorism; Assassinations; Riots/Civil Unrest; Floods; Employee Health Safety; Faith-based Organization; Information Security; Narcoterrorism; Financial Security
South Central Asia > Pakistan > Karachi
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Karachi and other areas of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces continues to experience high levels of violence characterized by bombings, targeted killings, sectarian strife, kidnappings for ransom, and frequent demonstrations. American citizens, U.S. interests, and other Westerners are at risk of becoming targets of violence.
Crime and safety are major concerns. Criminal gangs, often with political party affiliations, operate with impunity in most parts of the city, and some areas of Karachi effectively are cut off from police. Violent crime continued upward trends, and 2012 can be categorized as among the most deadly and violent years ever recorded in Karachi.
The following crime statistics are based on reporting by the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) and local law enforcement reports; however, many crimes remain unreported:
2,032 targeted killings (murders associated with political, sectarian or terrorist groups)
1,790 kidnappings for ransom
4,720 vehicle thefts with approximately 42 percent recovered
18,774 motorcycle thefts with approximately 12 percent recovered
23,962 cell phone thefts
Overall Road Safety Situation
Vehicles are right-hand drive, and traffic moves on the left side of the road. Driving is chaotic and undisciplined. Poorly trained and unskilled drivers do not follow widely accepted rules of the road, including staying in lanes, turning etiquette, and use of mirrors. Traffic is extremely heavy on weekdays, especially during normal commuting hours. Aside from the main arteries through the city, roads are narrow, poorly lit in many areas, and not well marked or maintained. Driving outside the city at night is unsafe.
Vehicle accidents are common, and motorists have been known to 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 involved in a motor accident is in fear of his/her personal safety, he/she may depart the area but should proceed immediately to the nearest police station to report the incident.
For security reasons, U.S. Consulate General employees are prohibited from using buses, taxis, rickshaws, or trains. All U.S. Consulate chief of mission Americans are required to travel in fully armored vehicles for both official and unofficial movements.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, and other extremist organizations actively operate. Incidents of terrorism and politically motivated violence in Karachi, the remainder of Sindh province, and Baluchistan 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, to include attacks on police and security forces, with grim regularity.
Baluchistan province, to include Quetta, has experienced an uptick in ethnic and terrorist violence that has taken a steady toll on security forces. Pakistani nationals working with Western governments, businesses, and NGOs have been targeted as demonstrated by the near simultaneous killings of polio vaccine workers in 2012.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, Pakistani Taliban) can be considered the most prominent terrorist organization that has demonstrated the capability to plan and execute major attacks that target the government and U.S. persons, companies, and interests.
Political and sectarian civil unrest are commonplace and unpredictable in Karachi. Anti-government and anti-American demonstrations throughout residential and commercial areas can erupt at any time and evolve quickly into violent mobs. In September 2012, Karachi experienced over 45 major anti-American protests in reaction to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. Two of the demonstrations numbered approximately 100,000 protestors while other violent demonstrations resulted in the looting and arson of many businesses. Demonstrations often turn violent and have resulted in attacks against companies with a real or perceived Western or U.S. connection.
Strikes and transportation shut downs occur frequently, often in reaction to sectarian violence, political interests, or in protest of government policies.
While police largely have been effective in protecting diplomatic facilities and government buildings, riots and violent demonstrations caused widespread damage in 2012.
Religious or Ethnic Violence
Incidents of sectarian and ethnic violence in Karachi, the remainder of Sindh province, and Baluchistan province continue unabated. A variety of groups representing extremist elements associated with Sunni and Shia sects carry out bombings and assassinations with almost daily frequency. Minority religious sects and groups are frequently targeted. Baluchistan province, to include Quetta, has experienced a steady rise in ethnically and religiously motivated violence, particularly targeting Shia Muslims. These violent incidents often lead to demonstrations, which can spiral out downward in a cycle of violence and retaliation.
Sindh province is prone to floods, which have devastated infrastructure, agriculture, and industries and caused significant loss of life. Many roads, to include major thoroughfares, can flood with relatively small amounts of rain as drainage and infrastructure is poorly maintained.
A major earthquake could cause extensive damage and loss of life as construction standards are inadequate.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Industrial safety and transportation standards fall well short of Western practices. There is little oversight or enforcement of government regulations or safety standards. In 2012, the most serious industrial accident in Karachi was a factory fire that killed over 300 employees. Safety procedures and standards were non-existent, so the fire spread quickly, and many people died because the factory doors were locked.
Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts
Counterfeit movies and goods are available; however, the overall low level of disposable income does not generate a high demand. Many garment factories wholesale factory seconds to local outlets, which sell them at a reduced price since they cannot be exported.
Unauthorized access to personally identifiable information (PII) is quite possible in Pakistan. Few holders of PII have adequate safeguards or access controls to prevent dissemination of sensitive personal information. Official intrusions into personal privacy are not well documented.
Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones
The U.S Department of State warns all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan.
Roads in many parts of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces are poorly maintained, and highway robbery and banditry are frequent occurrences, especially in areas that the government has difficulty controlling in Baluchistan.
Regional travel is not difficult to facilitate provided all necessary documents and permissions are in place prior to travel.
Major areas of northern and eastern Karachi are not recommended for travel due to the frequency of criminal activity and neighborhoods that are controlled by various criminal and/or political gangs or sympathetic to extremist religious organizations that are suspicious of, or hostile to, Westerners.
Drug-related mafias control parts of Karachi. Drug-related crimes are not well documented. While illicit drug use occurs, the knowledge of its frequency, type, and proliferation remains based mostly on anecdotal evidence.
Kidnapping is a major industry. Criminal and extremist groups often target local businessmen and prominent families in order to extort ransoms for profit or to finance operations. Ransoms are often negotiated and paid by families without police notification or involvement. Foreign and local employees of NGOs have been targeted for kidnapping, and ransoms are often paid. Groups that perpetrate kidnappings are not frequently brought to justice.
The police services are below the professional standards of the U.S. due to a lack of training and resources and low salaries. The conduct of investigations, arrests, and prosecutions is also affected by local political influence. 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. Police in other areas of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces face similar challenges.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If arrested or detained by police, individuals are advised not to make any admissions or statements or sign documents. Inform the authorities of your status as a U.S citizen and advise them to contact the Consular Affairs Section at the U.S. Consulate immediately at (92)-(21)-3527-5000, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
The emergency number for the Karachi police is 15. All serious crimes should be reported to police, but thefts may also be reported to the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee at (92)-(21)111-222-345.
Various Police/Security Agencies
The Special Police (SP) Foreigners Security Cells are specifically responsible for responding to any crime involving foreigners.
Karachi/Sindh SP Foreigners Security Cell: (92)-(21)-9920-6530
Baluchistan SP Foreigners Security Cell: (92)-(81)-9201-1596
In general, hospital care and cleanliness are below U.S. standards. Medical facilities require pre-payment. Emergency medical care is only available in the major cities. There is no standard ambulance/emergency medical service in Karachi.
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics
The Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi has excellent standards for medical and trauma care. The hospital accepts credit cards, but most other health care facilities do not.
Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi
Stadium Road, P.O. Box 3500
Karachi, 74800, Pakistan
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
There is no air ambulance. Edhi Ambulance services are the best on offer and can be reached at 115.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Water is not potable in Karachi, and sanitation in many restaurants is inadequate. Stomach illnesses are common and can be life-threatening. Take steps to avoid tainted food and water and prevent insect bites to avoid Malaria and Dengue fever.
The CDC recommends vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, Polio, and Rabies. For more health related information about Pakistan consult the CDC’s website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/pakistan.htm.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Crimes and scams are common and include cell phone theft, credit card fraud, and counterfeit money schemes. All business travelers should exercise caution with investment and property transactions.
Areas to be Avoided
There are many areas that are recommended as off-limits to Western visitors in Karachi. Many areas in Karachi should not be entered at any time of day or night due to high crime, lack of police control, and the presence of extremist elements. Hostile and volatile areas of Karachi should be avoided at all times. The safest areas in Karachi include the neighborhoods referred to as Clifton, D.H.A., and PECHS, but even these areas experience serious crimes and thefts.
Major parts of Baluchistan province, to include Quetta, which has experienced numerous bombings and shootings, should be considered dangerous and volatile.
Best Security Practices
Visitors are advised to not venture into any unknown areas and to limit their movements, especially after dark. Persons should maintain a high-level of situational awareness and caution at all times and are reminded always to notify someone of their location. Leave an itinerary with a colleague or friend so your whereabouts are known. Do not become time and place predictable and do not set established patterns. Instead, vary routes, times of departure, and arrival by as much as 30-45 minutes. Keep a low profile and do not to carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewelry. If possible, leave wallets or purses secured at home and carry only necessary cash and ID in a front pocket.
Always possess a means of communication such as a cell phone or local calling cards. Know local emergency numbers, country codes, city codes, and dialing procedures.
Know primary and alternate routes to all destinations. Know locations and routes to the nearest police stations and hospitals.
Avoid politically/religiously active areas of the city. Avoid high risk areas, crowds, and civil disturbances. Visitors are advised to avoid demonstrations, large crowds, and public gatherings that appear to be political in nature.
Avoid the use of all public transportation and taxis.
Most major hotels in Karachi employ local security firms, which provide adequate security. Valuables should be kept locked in the room safe or kept at the front desk. Fire fighting resources are severely lacking, so it is advised you stay on a lower floor in a hotel. Take personal responsibility for your fire evacuation plan from the hotel.
Vetting of personnel and proper personal security procedures remains key to avoiding kidnapping.
U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
The U.S Consulate General in Karachi is located at Plot 3,4,5, New TPX Area, Mai Kolachi Road Karachi, Pakistan.
Consulate business hours are from 8:30AM to 5PM.
Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers
The U.S Consulate General can be reached by calling (92)-(21)3527-5000, 24 hours/7 days a week.
U.S. citizens are advised to register with the U.S. Consulate General and can obtain updated travel information by visiting http://karachi.usconsulate.gov. Routine public inquiries from American citizens about safety and security in Karachi should be directed to the Consular Section (American Citizen Services) of the U.S. Consulate General.
Travelers should stay informed of the security situation throughout Pakistan and in Karachi through the media and by monitoring http://islamabad.usembassy.gov and http://karachi.consulate.gov.
OSAC Country Council Information
Karachi has an active OSAC Country Council comprised of 72 members from U.S.-based companies. For more information, contact the Regional Security Officer in Karachi at (92)-(21) 3527-5504 or the Overseas Security Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. at 571-345-2223. OSAC’s website is www.osac.gov.