According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Pakistan has been assessed as Level 3: Reconsider travel due to terrorism.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy 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.
The 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.
Please review OSAC’s Pakistan-specific 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.
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 (pickpocketing, purse snatchings, mobile phone theft, other crimes of opportunity) are common. The frequency of these crimes increases with distance from the government-controlled Red Zone. In general, street crime is more prevalent in Rawalpindi than Islamabad.
Major crimes remain a concern. According to the Islamabad Capital Territory Police, the number of reported murders and non-violent robberies in 2017 decreased slightly compared to 2016. Reports of kidnapping and violent robberies recorded slight increases.
In one significant instance, a Chinese national was shot during an armed robbery involving several gunmen at a Chinese residence on December 29, 2017. The victim succumbed to her injuries.
Residential crimes (burglaries, vandalism) decreased slightly in 2017. All residences owned and leased by the U.S. Embassy are protected by armed guards.
Sexual assaults in Islamabad are not well documented. 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.
Travelers should avoid ATMs that are isolated or not protected from tampering, and examine them for skimming devices before use. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”
Businesses owners are advised that check fraud is one of the most frequently reported crimes in Pakistan.
Cybersecurity concerns in Pakistan are growing, particularly in large urban centers. Travelers should take precautions with their personal devices to keep them secure from hacking and physical tampering.
Other Areas of Concern
Travelers should use caution throughout Pakistan and refer to Department of State travel advisories and alerts. U.S. government employees are generally restricted to the E, F, and G sectors of Islamabad, closest to the Diplomatic Enclave. Other areas are considered off limits except for travel related to official business.
All U.S. citizens who do not also possess Pakistani citizenship are required to obtain advance permission from the Pakistani government to travel to areas considered sensitive or dangerous. Examples include the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and many areas in the Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
For more information, please 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 are required to be right-side drive, and travel on the left side of the road. Traffic laws are generally observed in Islamabad but are rarely enforced or followed after leaving 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 significantly worse.
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 are often transported in private vehicles to the closest hospital. Bystanders may demand that the injured be transported to a hospital by the person perceived to be at fault.
Public Transportation Conditions
U.S. government personnel are forbidden from utilizing any type of public transportation.
The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Benazir Bhutto International Airport has significant security resources devoted to its protection and is a frequent target of attempted and aspirational terror plots. U.S. government employees are required to use armored vehicles to travel to the airport.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Islamabad 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
Pakistan is home to numerous terrorist organizations. 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 government officials. Areas outside of Islamabad are generally less secure and have suffered frequent successful terror attacks. Military forces continue to conduct operations against extremist elements throughout the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In 2017, numerous notable terror incidents occurred in Pakistan. The list below is not comprehensive and is included for illustrative purposes only.
On January 21, a bombing at a market in Parachinar, within the Kurram tribal region, killed approximately 20 people and injured more than 50 others. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.
On February 12, gunmen ambushed a news van in Karachi, killing a cameraman. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.
On February 13, a suicide bomber targeting a protest in Lahore killed 13 and injured more than 85 others. Many of the victims were police officials. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of TTP, claimed responsibility.
On February 15, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle attacked a court van in Peshawar, killing the driver and injuring four judges. TTP claimed responsibility. That same day, two suicide bombers attempted to enter a government compound in Ghalanai Teshil within the Mohmand tribal area. When stopped by security forces, one of the bombers caused an explosion that killed five and injured eight. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack. In addition, an IED placed on a roadside in the Awaran district of Balochistan exploded, hitting a Pakistani Army motorcade. Three soldiers were killed and two other were injured.
On February 16, a suicide bombing resulted in 70 deaths and more than 150 injures at a shrine in Sehwan, Sindh.
On February 17, gunmen opened fire on a police van in Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The attack killed five people, four of them police officials.
On February 21, three suicide bombers armed with explosives, grenades, and pistols attacked a court complex in the Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The attack resulted in the deaths of five civilians. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility.
On March 6, attacks on three border security posts in the Mohmand tribal region killed five soldiers. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility.
On March 31, an explosive-laden vehicle detonated near a mosque in Parachinar in the Kurram tribal area. The explosion killed approximately 25 and injured 90.
On April 14, four Pakistani Rangers were killed during a confrontation with TTP militants in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab. Ten militants were killed during the counter-terror operation.
On April 25, a buried anti-tank mine in the Gudar region of Kurram detonated when passenger vehicle struck it. The explosion killed 14 and injured nine. The Islamic State Khorasan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar both claimed responsibility.
On May 12, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle attacked a motorcade carrying a prominent political figure in Mastung, Balochistan. The explosion killed 28 and injured 40 others. The ISIS claimed responsibility.
On May 13, gunmen on a motorcycle fired into a group of laborers working in Gwadar, Balochistan, killing 10 people. The Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility.
On June 23, a vehicle laden with explosives detonated in Quetta, Balochistan. The blast killed 14 and injured 19 others. Hours later, two explosions hit a market in Parachinar, Kurram. The second explosion was triggered by a suicide bomber targeting first responders. The market bombings killed 72 and injured over 200. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility.
On July 10, in Chaman, Balochistan, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle rammed a police vehicle and detonated, killing three and injuring 20. TTP claimed responsibility.
On July 24, a motorcycle laden with explosives detonated in a market in Kot Lakhpat, Lahore. The blast killed 26 and injured 58. TTP claimed responsibility.
On August 12, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle laden with explosives attacked a Pakistani Army patrol truck. The resulting explosion killed 15 and injured 40. ISIS claimed responsibility.
On October 5, a suicide bomber attempted to enter a shine in Jhal Magsi, Balochistan. When stopped by security personnel, he detonated his explosives, killing 21 and injuring approximately 35.
On October 18, in Quetta, Balochistan, an explosive-laden vehicle rammed a police truck and detonated, killing eight and wounding 24.
On November 9, a suicide bomber assassinated a senior police official in Quetta, Balochistan. The attack killed three police officers and wounded eight civilians.
On November 24, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle attacked a vehicle carrying a senior police official in Peshawar. The official and his bodyguard were killed. Eight other police officers were wounded.
On December 1, gunmen stormed the Agricultural Training Institute in Peshawar killing 13 and injuring 35. TTP claimed responsibility.
On December 17, two suicide bombers attempted to enter a Methodist church in Quetta. One of the bombers detonated his explosives at the entrance. The second bomber was unable to trigger his explosives and was killed in a gunfight with security forces. The attack killed nine and injured 57.
U.S. government personnel and facilities have consistently remained a target for terror groups in Pakistan. Western organizations and businesses also remain attractive targets. U.S. government officials working in Islamabad are cautioned to vary their routines to reduce predictability, limit public exposure, and avoid loitering in markets and shopping centers.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Islamabad as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Protests and demonstrations can form unexpectedly and rapidly become violent. Travelers should avoid large gatherings and processions. Large protests have proven difficult for the government to control and have led to city-wide traffic disruptions and periods of violence.
On November 8, 2017, Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a political party, staged a procession and sit-in involving tens of thousands of protestors and several hundred vehicles. The sit-in lasted approximately three weeks and caused disruption throughout Islamabad, including widespread gridlock and violent confrontations between protestors and security forces.
Sectarian violence has occurred on numerous occasions and continues to be a concern, especially around religious holidays. Religious events have been targets of sectarian attacks and unrest.
Islamabad is subject to severe seismic activity. Massive earthquakes can occur without warning. Most buildings and residences are not built to any seismic standard. Although there are emergency response organizations in Islamabad, a large scale disaster would quickly overwhelm response capabilities.
During the winter, air pollution reaches significant levels and can present health hazards, particularly to individuals who suffer from respiratory diseases.
Infrastructure in the 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. Travelers are advised to maintain multiple forms of communication.
Counterfeit goods and pirated entertainment are readily available.
Personal Identity Concerns
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 LGBTI rights in Pakistan may be found in the Department of State’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 elsewhere.
The Embassy regularly receives reports of female U.S. citizens subjected to domestic abuse and violence. Female and minor U.S. citizens have had their passports confiscated by male family members who seek to control their freedom of movement. In other cases, female U.S. citizens are brought to Pakistan by family members and then 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 offer assistance to victimized women. They may be reached by contacting American Citizen Services.
With the exception of publicized drug seizures related to transnational counter-narcotics efforts, drug-related crimes are not well documented by police. While illicit drug use occurs, information concerning its frequency, type, and proliferation, is typically gleaned 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 targeted. There were no corroborated reports of U.S. citizen kidnappings in 2017. However, there is significant reporting on U.S. citizens who have been held in Pakistan after being kidnapped in other countries.
On October 11, 2017, an American citizen and her family were rescued from the Taliban by Pakistani security forces in northwest Pakistan.
The most recent kidnapping of foreign nationals involved two Chinese citizens kidnapped in Quetta on May 24, 2017. ISIS claims to have killed both.
For more information, please 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 significant resources are devoted 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 Harassment
If arrested or detained, U.S. citizens should request that Pakistani authorities immediately notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest Consulate. The Pakistani government may delay consular access by at least 20 business days.
Crime Victim Assistance
Travelers can contact the police by dialing 15.
American citizens should report crimes committed against them to the police and the U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services section. The Embassy can be reached after hours at (92) 51-201-4000 or 5000.
Travelers 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 U.S.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
A list of doctors and hospitals in the Islamabad Consular District is on the Embassy’s website.
Shifa and Kulsum are the main hospitals used by U.S. Embassy personnel in Islamabad.
Shifa International is the preferred hospital because of its overall capabilities and proximity to the U.S. Embassy. It is a well-equipped, Western-style hospital with a 24-hour emergency room staff. Many of the physicians have been trained in the U.S. or the UK. Shifa International is a good resource for general medical, surgical, and trauma care.
Shifa International Hospital
Sector H 8/4
Phone: (92) 51-460-3666
Emergency Room ext. 3010 / 3090
Kulsum Hospital is closer to the U.S. Embassy and located in the Blue Area of Islamabad. It is a good choice for minor medical problems, though its emergency department is not as well equipped as Shifa Hospital.
Kulsum International Hospital
Blue Area, Jinnah Avenue
Phone: (92) 51-844-6666
Air Ambulance Services
Several air ambulance companies provide service to Pakistan. Travelers are encouraged to research the availability and quality of air ambulance services and to make an informed choice based on individual requirements.
The U.S. Embassy has used SOS International and Europe Assistance but cannot offer recommendations.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Travelers should research medical and medical evacuation insurance before traveling to Pakistan.
Water quality and sanitation standards are better than in the rural areas of Pakistan, but U.S. government employees are advised against drinking tap water. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Pakistan.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Country Council in Islamabad meets bi-annually. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s South and Central Asia team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Islamabad
Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0800 – 1630
Embassy Contact Numbers
Telephone: 011 92-51 201 4000
Emergency Contact Information: 011 92-51 201 4000
Consulate Karachi: http://karachi.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Lahore: http://lahore.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Peshawar: http://peshawar.usconsulate.gov/
For updated information, please contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad or the Consulates in Karachi, Lahore, or Peshawar. Please note that Consulate General Peshawar does not provide routine consular services.
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