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Pakistan 2014 Crime and Safety Report: Karachi

South Central Asia > Pakistan; South Central Asia > Pakistan > Karachi

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S Department of State warns all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan. Al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, and other extremist organizations operate actively inside Pakistan. Karachi and other areas of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces continue to experience high levels of violence characterized by bombings, targeted killings, sectarian strife, kidnappings for ransom, extortion, and frequent demonstrations. American citizens, U.S. interests, and other Westerners are at risk of becoming targets of violence. 

Crime Threats 

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 are effectively cut off from police. Despite a large-scale security operation carried out by Pakistani Rangers and Police, violent crime continued to rise this past year, and by many accounts 2013 was the deadliest year recorded in Karachi. The following 2013 Karachi crime statistics are based on data released by the Sindh Police and Rangers. Many crimes remain unreported. 
2,715 killed (civilians) 
191 killed (police and Rangers)
125 killed (suspected criminals/terrorists)
108 kidnappings
519 cases of extortion
3,082 cases of robbery 
4,068 vehicle thefts 
22,284 motorcycle thefts 
10,501 cell phone thefts 

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.

Overall Road Safety Situation

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. Intersections, both major and minor, often have non-working traffic lights. Poorly trained and unskilled drivers do not understand the concept of staying in lanes, turning etiquette, and use of mirrors. Driving outside the city at night is unsafe. Traffic is extremely heavy on weekdays, especially during normal commuting hours. Aside from the main arteries, roads are narrow, poorly-lit in many areas, and not well marked or maintained. 

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, s/he may depart the area but should proceed immediately to the nearest police station to report the incident. 

It is recommended to avoid all public transportation. For security reasons, U.S. Consulate General Karachi employees are prohibited from using buses, taxis, rickshaws, or trains. All U.S. Consulate 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

Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP, or Pakistani Taliban) remains the most active terrorist organization and continues to demonstrate the capability to plan and execute major attacks. 

Incidents of terrorism and politically-motivated violence in Karachi and Sindh and Baluchistan provinces 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 with grim regularity, to include attacks on police and security forces. 

Pakistani nationals working with Western governments, businesses, and NGOs have been targeted. Polio vaccination programs have been particularly singled out by the TTP. Since 2012, 33 workers associated with these programs have been killed. In 2013, there were seven reported attacks on polio vaccination drives in Karachi alone. 

Civil Unrest 

Political and sectarian civil unrest can erupt at any time throughout residential and commercial areas of the city and can quickly evolve into violent mobs. Strikes and transportation shut downs occur frequently, often in reaction to sectarian violence, political interests, or in protest of government policies. There were a number of small anti-American demonstrations in 2013, but the overall numbers and size declined from 2012. 

Police have demonstrated the capability to mobilize quickly and in force and have been mostly effective in protecting diplomatic facilities and Pakistani government buildings. Visitors are advised to avoid demonstrations, large crowds, and public gatherings that appear to be political. Travelers should stay informed of the security situation throughout Pakistan and in Karachi through the media and by monitoring the Consulate website.. 

Religious or Ethnic Violence 

Incidents of sectarian and ethnic violence in Karachi and in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces continue unabated. A variety of groups representing extremist elements associated with Sunni and Shiite sects carry out bombings and assassinations in Karachi with grim regularity. Minority religious sects and groups are also frequently targeted. In 2013, there were 128 reported incidents of sectarian violence in which 525 people were killed and 914 injured. These violent incidents often lead to retaliatory acts and demonstrations that can quickly spiral out of control. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards 

Sindh province is prone to floods, which, in recent years, have devastated the 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. 

Pakistan is situated in a seismically active area. On September 24, 2013, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck the rural Awaran area in Baluchistan, 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 to the disaster. If a major quake were to occur near Karachi, extensive damage and loss of life would be expected due to poor and inadequate construction standards.

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.

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

Counterfeit movies and goods are available in Karachi, however, the overall low level of disposable income does not generate high demand. Many garment factories wholesale factory seconds to local outlets, which sell them at a reduced price since they cannot be exported.

Privacy Concerns

Unauthorized access to personally identifiable information (PII) is quite possible. Few holders of PII have adequate safeguards and access controls to prevent dissemination of sensitive information. Official intrusions into personal privacy are not well documented.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Roads in many parts of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces are poorly maintained, and highway robbery and banditry are frequent occurrences, especially in areas in Baluchistan that the government has difficulty controlling. Regional travel is not difficult to facilitate provided all required 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 Crimes

Drug-related mafias control parts of Karachi. Drug-related crimes are not well documented by police. While illicit drug use occurs, the knowledge of its frequency, type, and proliferation remains based mostly on anecdotal evidence.

Kidnapping Threats

Kidnapping is a major industry in Karachi and in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. 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. U.S. citizens and foreign and 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 key to avoiding this kind of crime.

Police Response

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 local political influence. The police have difficulty in responding to emergencies in many of the more violent areas of Karachi and are actively denied access to some neighborhoods. Hostile and volatile areas should be avoided at all times. Police in other areas of Sindh and Baluchistan province 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, statements, or to sign documents. Once you are able, contact American Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate at (92)-(21)-3527-5000, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The U.S. Consulate is very limited in the assistance it can provide, but it can provide local legal resources and contacts. 

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

Medical Emergencies

In general, Pakistan’s hospital care and cleanliness is 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 and no air ambulance. Amaan ambulance service is the best available and can be reached at (92) 021 111112626. Other ambulance services should be considered merely as transportation without emergency medical personnel. 

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 may be reached at (92)-(21)-3493-0051. The Aga Khan 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

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.

The CDC recommends vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Japanese encephalitis (for prolonged travel), Polio, and Rabies. Take steps to avoid tainted food and water and prevent insect bites to avoid Malaria and Dengue fever. The CDC considers the risk of malaria in Pakistan to be moderate and recommends consideration of medication to prevent the disease. For more health related information about Pakistan consult the CDC’s website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/pakistan.htm. Information is also available at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel. 

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Crimes/Scams

Crimes and scams are common, including 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. Visitors are advised to not venture into any unknown areas and to limit their movements, especially after dark. Many areas in Karachi should not be entered due to high crime, lack of police control, and the presence of extremist elements. 

Major parts of Baluchistan province, to include Quetta, which has experienced numerous bombings and shootings, should be considered dangerous and volatile. 

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

Persons should maintain a high level of situational awareness and caution at all times and are reminded always to notify someone of their location. Do not become time and place predictable, and do not set established patterns. Vary routes, 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 emergency exits. Know locations and routes to the nearest police stations and hospitals.

Keep a low profile and do not 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.  

Avoid politically/religiously active areas of the city. Avoid high risk areas, crowds, and civil disturbances. 

Avoid the use of public transportation and taxis.

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. Leave an itinerary with a colleague or friend so your whereabouts are known.

Most major hotels 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, and it is advised you stay on a lower floor in a hotel. Take personal responsibility for your fire evacuation plan from the hotel. 

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information 

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. 

Consulate Contact Numbers

The U.S Consulate General can be reached by calling (92)-(21)3527-5000, 24 hours/7 days a week. 

American travelers to Pakistan are strongly encouraged to enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)” prior to their travel. This provides the U.S. Embassy/Consulate with emergency contact information, and allows travelers to receive emergency security messages sent to Americans in Pakistan. STEP can be accessed at https://step.state.gov/step/.

U.S citizens visiting Karachi 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.

OSAC Country Council Information

Karachi has an active OSAC Country Council comprised of 72 members from U.S.-based companies with operations in Pakistan. For more information contact the Regional Security Officer in Karachi at (92)-(21) 3527-5504.