Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate Karachi does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED KARACHI AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Pakistan-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
The U.S Department of State warns American citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan. U.S. citizens and interests, as are other Westerners, are at risk of being targets of violence. Crime and safety in Karachi remain a major concern. Current reporting indicates that the security situation in Karachi has improved from years past; however, uncontrolled street crimes remain rampant.
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.
According to Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) statistics for 2016, the number of violent crimes (murder, kidnapping) reported has decreased from 2015, and improvements in the Sindh police continue. However, street crime rose by 38% and motorcycle thefts were also 24% higher than prior years. The Consulate considers many areas in Karachi to be unsafe due to the 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.
Always have a means of communication (cell phone, local calling cards). Know local emergency numbers, country codes, city codes, and dialing procedures. Leave an itinerary with a colleague or friend so your whereabouts are known. Avoid high-risk areas, crowds, and civil disturbances.
U.S. officials throughout Pakistan are instructed to restrict the frequency of movements and to 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. Embassy/Consulates often place areas such as hotels, markets, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel. All U.S. Government and official travelers usually receive lodging on the Embassy and Consulate compounds.
Other Areas of Concern
Travel within 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 government approval to travel in/around Balochistan.
Crime and safety are significant concerns throughout the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Visitors should consider most parts of Balochistan including Quetta, which has experienced high levels of violence during 2016, dangerous and volatile.
The Consulate does not recommend travel to major areas of northern and eastern Karachi due to the frequency of criminal activity. Criminal/political gangs sympathetic to extremist organizations suspicious of or hostile to Westerners often control these areas.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Vehicles are right-hand drive, and traffic moves on the left side of the road. Driving is chaotic and undisciplined. It is common that intersections, both major and minor, 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, and 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 and 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 poorly maintained. Highway robbery and banditry are frequent occurrences, especially in areas of Balochistan that the government has difficulty controlling.
American employees of the Consulate are not permitted to self-drive.
Public Transportation Conditions
Use of public transportation is not recommended and should be avoided. For security reasons, U.S. government employees are prohibited from using any public transportation (buses, taxis, rickshaws, trains).
There is a risk to U.S. civil aviation operating in the territory and airspace of Pakistan, particularly at low altitude, during the arrival and departure phases of flight, and when on the ground, due to extremist/militant activity.
- During the August 2015 attack on Jiwani Airport (OPJI) in Balochistan province, extremists/militants destroyed an air traffic control radar.
- In June 2014, extremists/militants attacked Jinnah International Airport (OPKC) in Karachi, resulting in over 30 deaths and damage to the airport facilities.
Other Travel Conditions
All U.S. Consulate Karachi American employees are required to travel in fully armored vehicles for both official and unofficial movements.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED KARACHI AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a danger to U.S. citizens 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 and demonstrate the capability to plan and execute major attacks.
Incidents of terrorism and politically-motivated violence in Karachi, the remainder of Sindh province, and 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.
- During 2016, 24 Security Forces (SF) were killed in Sindh and 153 SF were killed in Balochistan province - a drop from previous years.
- In November 2016, a suicide bomber killed more than 50 people at a shrine of Sufi saint Shah Bilal Noorani in Balochistan.
- On October 24, three militants stormed a police training center in Quetta and killed at least 60 people with gunfire and suicide vests.
- In August 2016, extremists/militants attacked a hospital in Quetta where lawyers had gathered to mourn the assassination of a prominent lawyer and killed 70 locals.
There were at least three anti-American demonstrations in Karachi during 2016, most with crowds only in the hundreds. This is a decline in an overall number and size from previous years.
- On October 29, an American/Pakistani citizen visiting in Karachi was killed at point blank range by gunmen during a family reunion celebration.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED KARACHI AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Political/sectarian civil unrest in Karachi can erupt anywhere, at any time, and without warning and can quickly evolve into violent mobs. Transportation strikes and shutdowns occur frequently throughout the city, often in reaction to sectarian violence, political interests, or in protest of government policies.
Police have demonstrated the capability to mobilize quickly and in force and have been largely effective in protecting diplomatic facilities and Pakistani government buildings in Karachi. Travelers should stay informed of the security situation throughout Pakistan and in Karachi through the media and by monitoring U.S. Embassy Islamabad or U.S. Consulate Karachi websites.
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 frequently targeted.
- On November 12, a bomb blast at a shrine in Balochistan killed at least 52 and wounded another 100.
The Rangers’ Karachi Operation saw significant improvement in diminishing capabilities of militant groups. Per the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), the country as a whole witnessed a 68% reduction in militant attacks, a 62% decline in resultant deaths, and a 48% decrease in injuries in 2016.
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 situated in a seismically active area.
- On September 24, 2013, a 7.7 earthquake struck the rural Awaran area in Balochistan, killing at least 825 people and destroying more than 21,000 homes. Lack of transportation infrastructure to the area, along with local apprehension of working with emergency authorities, contributed to Pakistan’s difficulty in responding quickly to the disaster.
The region has occasionally experienced less powerful seismic activity since the 2013 earthquake.
Drainage and infrastructure is poorly maintained. If a major earthquake were to occur near Karachi, extensive damage and loss of life would be expected 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; stay on a lower floor in a hotel. Take personal responsibility for your fire evacuation plan from the hotel. U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures.
Counterfeit movies and other goods are widely available. 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. Few holders of information have adequate safeguards and access controls to prevent dissemination of sensitive personal information. Official intrusions into personal privacy are not well documented.
Personal Identity Concerns
Men and women are advised to dress conservatively, with arms and legs covered, and to avoid walking alone. The Consulate does not recommend walking the streets at night.
The Consulate continues to receive reports of female U.S. citizens being subjected to domestic violence, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and forced marriage. There have been numerous cases of female Americans having their and their children’s passports confiscated by spouses/family members and their movement severely restricted. Women who attempt to report these cases to local police might find their complaints not taken seriously. U.S. citizen women who find themselves in a life-threatening situation are encouraged to call the police immediately. Some Pakistani NGOs are able to provide assistance to victimized women within the Pakistani community.
Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offense; however, the government rarely prosecutes such cases. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons rarely reveal their sexual orientation. 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. More detailed information about LGBT rights in Pakistan may be found 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 are not well documented by police. While illicit drug use occurs, knowledge of its frequency, type, and proliferation remains based mostly on anecdotal evidence.
Kidnapping remains a serious threat in Karachi and throughout the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Criminal and extremist groups often target local businessmen 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 targeted for kidnapping. Groups that perpetrate kidnappings are not frequently caught or brought to justice. Vetting of personnel and proper personal security procedures remains the key to avoiding this kind of crime.
Do not become time and place predictable. Do not set established patterns. Vary routes and times of departure and arrival by as much as 30-45 minutes. Know primary and alternate routes to all destinations. Ensure any location you visit has secondary exits that would be accessible in an emergency. Know the locations of and routes to, the nearest police stations and hospitals.
The police services are below the professional standards of the U.S. due to a lack of training/resources and low salaries. The conduct of investigations, arrests, and prosecutions is also affected by 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.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If arrested or detained by police, individuals are advised not to make any admissions, statements, or to sign documents without consulting an attorney. Contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi at (92)(21)3527-5000 as soon as possible, as authorities do not necessarily contact the foreign consulate automatically when a citizen of another country is arrested. The Consulate provides limited assistance with an arrestee’s immediate welfare and can provide local legal resource information and contacts. The Consulate does not resolve or investigate cases or take legal positions.
Crime Victim Assistance
The emergency number for the Karachi police is 15. All serious crimes should be reported to police, but crimes may also be reported to the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee at (92)(21)111-222-345.
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
The quality of hospital care and cleanliness is below U.S. standards. Medical facilities require pre-payment, and emergency medical care is only available in larger cities.
There is no standard ambulance/emergency medical service in Karachi and no air ambulance. A private service, Aman Ambulance Service, is the best available and can be reached at (92)(21)1021 or (92)(21)111-112-626. Other ambulance services should be considered merely as transportation without emergency medical personnel.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
The Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi (Karachi Stadium Road, P.O. Box 3500 Karachi, 74800, Pakistan) is among the best in the city for medical and trauma care. The hospital may be reached at (92)(21)3493-0051. The Aga Khan Hospital accepts credit cards.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Emergency medical evacuation by air is very expensive, and any personally-funded medical evacuation requires funding upfront. Insurers typically coordinate medical evacuations with their contracted air ambulance service directly.
Travelers should confirm overseas hospitalization and medical coverage with their health insurance company before travel. Local hospitals generally do not accept insurance as payment. Travelers must instead seek reimbursement from their insurer.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Karachi is among the five most 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, please 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 has implemented the World Health Organization (WHO) polio vaccination for travelers’ guidelines, and travelers may be asked to show proof of recent polio vaccination. Visitors who have stayed in Pakistan for longer than four weeks might be asked 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 currently meets four times a year and has approximately 20 members. Please contact OSAC’s South and Central Asia team with any questions or to join.
For more information, you may also contact the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Karachi at (92)-(21) 3527-5504.
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
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, 0800-1630
Consulate Contact Numbers
(92)(21)3527-5000, 24 hours/7 days a week.
Embassy Islamabad: https://pk.usembassy.gov/
Consulate Lahore: https://pk.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/lahore/
Consulate Peshawar: https://pk.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/peshawar/
Routine public inquiries from U.S. citizens about safety and security in Karachi are addressed in the Country-Specific Information and Travel Warning for Pakistan; specific questions should be directed to the Consular Section (U.S. Citizen Services) of the U.S. Consulate General.
The U.S. Department of State strongly encourages American 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.
Pakistan Country Information Sheet