Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Peshawar has historically been one of the most dangerous cities in Pakistan, and criminal activity increased significantly during 2009. Kidnappings, murder, assault, home invasions, and other crimes are daily occurrences within Peshawar and its environs. Specific incidents of violence have targeted members of the diplomatic community, the press corps, the judiciary, and the local government. Threat reporting continues to indicate a potential for violence against Americans in Peshawar. Continued Pakistani military actions throughout the region have also resulted in increased terrorist attacks against law enforcement and security forces.
Major highway arteries in Peshawar are paved and in fair condition. However, secondary streets and roads are often unpaved, damaged, under construction, or in severe disrepair. Road work is constant and road maintenance is sporadic and poor. Local driving conditions are chaotic and hazardous, as local drivers are undisciplined and largely unregulated. All travel after dark is unsafe. Personnel assigned to post are prohibited from self-driving and from traveling after dark.
Political violence in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has been continuous and pervasive for the last thirty years. Peshawar and its surrounding areas have also witnessed periodic sectarian and factional violence. The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan due to continued incidents of violence and ongoing threats indicating the potential of terrorist activity directed against American citizens and interests. Continued U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the perceived American assistance behind Pakistan’s efforts to curb Islamic fundamentalism, contribute to a heightened anti-American sentiment throughout Pakistan and the NWFP.
There remains a significant terrorist threat to Americans and other foreign interests in Peshawar and throughout the NWFP. In 2008 and 2009, there were several incidents specifically targeting westerners and diplomatic personnel, including:
· An attack on the U.S. Consulate’s Principal Officer
· The murder of a USAID contractor
· The attempted kidnapping of the Afghan Consul General.
· The bombing of the Pearl Continental Hotel.
The region continues to experience significant levels of terrorist activity and sectarian violence, and all major western nations (including the U.S.) have issued travel advisories recommending against non-essential travel to Pakistan. Organized crime remains a factor as it facilitates fund raising and weapons procurement for militant groups, although it does not currently present a direct threat to Americans in Peshawar.
The proximity of Peshawar and the NWFP to Afghanistan and Iran make it vulnerable to international and transnational terrorism. Threat reporting continues to indicate the presence of al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and other hostile extremist organizations within the region.
Spontaneous as well as announced demonstrations periodically take place and can involve hundreds to thousands of people. The police are not equipped or trained to deal with incidents of this size, and often react with excessive force when crowds become hostile and aggressive.
Peshawar is subject to earthquakes. A severe earthquake occurred in northern Pakistan in 2005, resulting in the deaths of thousands. As recently as October 2009, Peshawar has experienced low-magnitude earthquake activity.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Industrial safety does not meet U.S. standards. Pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste in the water and air is widespread. Air pollution, exacerbated in the winter months, is at levels which may cause irritation and discomfort to individuals suffering from asthma and other respiratory disorders.
Driving in Peshawar is extremely hazardous. Consulate policy prohibits the use of public transportation and taxis by official personnel for various security reasons. Vehicle maintenance, lack of driver skills, and a general lack of road safety awareness by operators are all of concern.
Kidnappings of Pakistani government, business, and academic leaders spiked during the year and remain a concern for Americans and other westerners in Peshawar. The potential for kidnapping of American business persons remains high, and most hotels have only minimal security in place.
Airline flights and travel to/from Peshawar International Airport are subject to frequent change and variance due to the security situation. Travelers are advised to check with their travel agent and specific airline for specific information regarding flights into and out of Peshawar.
Police services in Peshawar are below the professional standards of their U.S. counterparts. Lack of training, resources, and low salaries all contribute to the problem. Police response times in Peshawar vary from 30 minutes to not responding at all. The local police emergency number in Peshawar is 921-2222. If there is a language barrier, U.S. citizens can contact American Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate via the main Consulate number of 92-91-526-8800. U.S. citizens may also use this number if they are arrested or require assistance with the police.
Emergency medical care in Peshawar is extremely limited and generally below U.S. standards. Most Peshawar hospitals possess limited advanced life support equipment. Travelers should arrange for medical evacuation insurance personally or through their sponsoring agency prior to arriving in Peshawar. The Rehman Medical Institute is the most up to date facility in the area:
Rehman Medical Institute – (091) 582-5501/6. The Institute is a moderately-equipped hospital with 24-hour emergency room staffing. It is approximately 20 minutes from the U.S. Consulate. This hospital is adequate for general medical problems. However, it should be noted that this facility has limited security measures in place.
Air ambulance information is offered as a guide and is not a recommendation of one service over another. Travelers should research this service on their own. The following air ambulances are known to provide service in Peshawar:
AAA Air Ambulance Anywhere (US) – 727-934-3999 / fax 727-937-0276
AEA International Alarm Centers (Singapore) – 65-338-7800 / fax 65-338-7611
Situational awareness and common sense are imperative for your personal safety. Travelers to Peshawar should:
· Avoid the appearance of carrying large sums of money and do not draw attention to yourself
· Avoid high-risk areas, crowds, and civil disturbances
· When traveling, do not be time and place predictable and vary routes and times
· Go immediately to a safe place such as a government building or a police check point if you feel you are being followed or threatened in any way
· Always maintain a low profile
· Use extreme caution and expect the unexpected whether driving or riding as a passenger
· Drive defensively; expect other drivers to ignore signs and intersection stops
· Always wear seatbelts
Hotels are currently off-limits to official U.S. government travelers due to safety and security concerns, however, travelers that insist on using them should:
· Maintain personal security at hotel and guest houses
· Avoid leaving valuables in the room
· Stay on a lower floor in a hotel, as fire fighting resources are severely lacking
Many Americans and other westerners employ private security guard services for their residences and offices. They are less trained than those in the U.S. and generally have low quality employees due to deficient wages, training, supervision, and equipment. The major contract security guard services in Pakistan are SMS, Wackenhut, Phoenix Security Services, and Ashkari Guards.
The NWFP is conservative in both custom and practice. Wearing of form-fitting clothing for either sex is not appropriate and should be avoided. Men should not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts in public. Women should wear trousers and long (to the hip or below) over-shirts. In Peshawar, short skirts and dresses (above the knee) are not appropriate.
Consulate Peshawar main switchboard – 011-92-91-526-8800
Regional Security Office – Peshawar – 011-92-91-526-8934
OSAC Country Council
The OSAC Country Council in Pakistan is being reconstituted to support the entire country; the Regional Security Office in Peshawar can offer additional information and/or briefs to any and all U.S. and allied private sector personnel when requested.
Point of contact for this information is RSO Peshawar Steven M. Miller, 92-91-526-8934, firstname.lastname@example.org .