Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Criminal activity in Lahore, chief city in Pakistan’s Punjab province, continues to increase despite a rise in law enforcement activity. Most worrisome has been the increase in rape, as such incidents of rape rose sixteen percent in 2009. U.S. personnel have rarely reported anti-American sentiment, although there has recently been a spike in harassment towards the U.S Consulate Lahore employees by local press and Pakistani military. As the Pakistani economy worsens, it is expected that the crime rate will increase across the country without the proper intervention by law enforcement.
The engagement by the Pakistani military forces in a campaign against extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) has caused terrorists to target the Pakistani and American governments. This has led to an increase in attacks on civilian, government, and foreign targets in Pakistan's cities.
The presence of al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups pose a potential danger to American citizens throughout Pakistan. Terrorists and their sympathizers regularly attack civilian, government, and foreign targets and have recently increased their activity in the Punjab Province.
The Pakistani government has heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where Americans and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, and outdoor recreation events.
The Department of State continues to advise U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan. Family members of official Americans assigned to the Embassy in Islamabad and to the three consulates general in Pakistan were ordered to leave the country in March 2002 and have not been allowed to return. U.S. Consulate Peshawar instituted a drawdown of non-essential personnel in November 2008.
The roadways in Lahore continue to improve, although the traffic in the city and the lack of highway traffic patrols have littered the streets with vehicular debris. Driving is also made dangerous by:
· Typical lack of experience driving on the left side of the road
· Poorly trained and unskilled local drivers
· Pedestrians, horse carts, and cattle walking in the road without concern of oncoming traffic
The majority of Consulate staff utilize the Motorpool drivers for daily driving. The roads have limited markings and are poorly lit for night time driving. Because of this, driving at night outside the city is prohibited without approval of the Regional Security Office (RSO).
Political violence targeting U.S. and Western interests, as well as sectarian violence, has been increasing in Pakistan for decades. Punjab province had 15 major incidents in 2009, compared to 7 in 2008. As of January 2010, attacks in the Punjab have been against domestic targets, especially military, intelligence, and law enforcement facilities. The following significant indidents occurred in Punjab in 2009:
· 01/09: Five low-intensity explosions ripped through two theatres in Lahore. No casualties were reported as the theatres were closed because of Muharram.
· 01/26: Police seized four bombs from three locations in the Lower Mall area of Lahore after receiving a warning call on the Police Emergency Number. Bombs were found outside the main gate of the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations Office, a waste enclosure on Rattigan Road, and two milk cans alongside the road near the SSP office.
· 02/05: Thirty-three people were killed and 80 injured when a suicide bomber exploded in a crowd of Shia worshippers outside a mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan.
· 03/03: At least 12 gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team at Liberty Chowk outside Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, killing seven policemen and injuring several more.
· 03/23: A group of 35 student protestors overwhelmed host government security forces by walking past police at the outer check-point leading to U.S. Consulate Lahore and burned the American Flag at the Main Gate.
· 03/30: Four Armed terrorists attacked a police training school at Manawaan, killing 8 and injuring over 100.
· 04/05: Suicide bomber detonated as guards tried to stop him at the gate of a Shia mosque at Chakwal Imambargah, killing 22 wounding over 60.
· 05/27: A car bomb detonated at the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Regional Headquarters of the Punjab Province office located in Lahore, killing 23 and injuring over 300.
· 06/12: Terrorists conducted a suicide attack on Jamia Naeemia madrassa in Lahore, Pakistan shortly after Friday prayers, killing four people and injuring eight others.
· 07/11: Security forces stormed a madrassa in Dera Ghazi Khan after receiving a tip that militants were hiding out in preparation for an attack. The militants opened fire on police as they entered. Police seized a truckload of bombs, guns, grenades and other weapons.
· 07/13: At least 20 people were killed and around 60 injured in Chak-129 near Mian Channu/Khanerwal District in the Southern Punjab, when explosives stored in a basement nearby a local mosque “accidently” detonated.
· 10/15: Militants attacked the Federal Investigations Agency/Regional Headquarters, the Elite Police Training School, and the Police Training School Manawan simultaneously. Eight terrorists died, while 18 police were killed and over 90 were wounded.
· 11/9: A suicide bomber blew himself up when the car in which he was travelling was signaled to stop at Lahore boundary’s police check post at the Babu Sabu intersection.
· 12/7: Two blasts 30 seconds apart devastated Lahore’s Moon Market, killing at least 45 people and injuring more than 150.
· 12/8: Twelve people were killed and at least 35 others injured in a car bomb attack in the Qasim Bela area of Multan Cantt, near a building belonging to Pakistan’s InterServices Intelligence (ISI). Eight civilians and four security personnel were killed.
Though American citizens continue to be comparatively safe within Lahore’s consular district (including all of Punjab province except for Rawalpindi, Attock, and Islamabad Capital District), 2009 showed a spike in violent extreminism and designated foreign terrorist groups operating in the Punjab. American interests will most likely continue to face a critical risk of terrorist attacks due to the military operations in the NWFP.
The numerous complex attacks towards the variety of interests in Pakistan reflect the Taliban and al-Qa’ida’s abilities to plan and operate in one of the most developed regions of Pakistan. Regional, international, and transnational threats are a part of daily activities in Pakistan. Travel advisories recommending against non-essential travel to Pakistan are still in effect for the majority of western nations.
The government of Pakistan is proactively countering the indigenous and transnational terrorist threat in Pakistan, with continued military operations in NWFP. Terrorist cells have been aggressively targeting official facilities in Punjab Province in retaliation. Because of this, the government has implemented tough security countermeasures and precautions to protect officials, diplomats, and areas frequented by westerners.
Although demonstrations require official permits from officials, spontaneous protests ranging from hundreds to many thousands can erupt quickly and turn violent without warning. The presence of extremist militants within the crowd of demonstrators is concerning, although the police generally maintain reliable control over the crowds. Friday afternoon prayers are a catalyst for demonstrations in Lahore, but the police are normally deployed in force to mitigate any threats.
U.S. Conuslate staff are prohibited from using public transportation. An array of reporting suggests Americans and westerners in Lahore are targeted for kidnapping and assasination. Almost 12,000 kidnapping cases were generated within Punjab in 2009.
The police services in Pakistan are below the professional standards in the United States due to low levels of training, resources, and salaries. However, the Punjab Police are among the most professional in Pakistan. The U.S Consulate Lahore maintains an excellent relationship with local police who provide unrivaled support.
Police response times in Lahore are usually less than 15 minutes. The local police emergency number in Lahore is 15. If there is a language barrier, U.S. citizens can contact American Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate Lahore via the main consulate switchboard at 92-42-603-4000. U.S. citizens may also use this number should they be arrested or have any interaction with the police for which they require assistance.
Emergency medical care in Pakistan is only available in major cities. Most Pakistani hospitals possess limited advanced life support equipment and are not up to U.S. standards. Travelers should arrange for medical evacuation insurance personally or through their sponsoring agency prior to arriving in Pakistan.
The following is the main hospital used by Consulate personnel:
152 – A-G-I Canal Bank, Jauhar Town
Phone: +92-42-530-2701 or +92-42-530-2709
Emergency Room: ext 3010 / 3090
Air ambulance information is offered only as a guide and is not a recommendation of one service over another. Travelers are encouraged to research the availability of other air ambulance services and to make an informed choice based on individual needs and requirements.
AAA Air Ambulance Anywhere - United States
Toll free: 1-800-327-196
AEA International Alarm Centers - Singapore
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
· Maintain a low profile and avoid wearing clothing that labels you as an American
· Situational awareness and common sense are imperative for your personal safety
· Avoid the appearance of carrying large sums of money
· Avoid high-risk areas, crowds, and civil disturbances
· Don’t be time and place predictable and always vary your routes
· If you feel that you are being followed or threatened in any way, immediately procede to a safe place such as a government building or police station
Driving safety tips:
· Whether you are driving or riding as a passenger, use extreme caution, expect the unexpected, and drive defensively.
· Expect others to ignore road signs and traffic lights.
· Proceed through these intersections with caution.
Hotels and Lodging:
· As of March 2010, the Avari Hotel is the only RSO-approved hotel for USG personnel to stay in Lahore
· Other hotels are approved for use of restaurants and services
· Personal security is paramount
· Valuables should not be left in rooms
· U.S. government personnel are advised to stay on lower floors in a hotel as fire fighting resources are severely lacking
Embassy main switchboard: 011-92-51-208-0000
Regional Security Office Islamabad: 011-92-51-208-2203
Regional Security Office Lahore: 011-92-42-603-4000
OSAC Country Council
RSO Islamabad is currently working with the private sector to establish a Country Council in Pakistan. In the interim, RSO Lahore actively reaches out to the American Business community and briefs any and all U.S. and allied private sector personnel when requested.
Point of contact for this report is RSO Bill Wommack, 92-42-603-4000; WommackW@state.gov.