Pakistan Country Report
Pakistan (population 202 million) is in the midst of a series of political, security, economic, energy, religious, and institutional crises. Political violence, terrorist attacks, and popular discontent have made Pakistan one of the most unstable and dangerous countries in the world. Many Western governments advise against nonessential travel to the country, particularly as the neighboring conflict in Afghanistan continues to spill over.
The terrorist threat, largely attributed to the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan; TTP) and numerous radical terrorist groups of varying political and religious beliefs (Sunni and Shi'a), is permanently elevated throughout the country. The TTP is considered the most violent Islamist terrorist group operating in Pakistan.
The Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization has also increased its operations in Pakistan in recent years and carries out attacks via its Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) faction. IS has claimed responsibility for various attacks in Pakistan, including a deadly suicide bombing at a shrine in Sindh province that killed 88 people and injured 300 others in February 2017.
In the first half of 2017, more than 60 separate terrorist incidents were reported, which resulted in 550 deaths and 800 people injured. These attacks of varying size and intensity were perpetrated across all four provinces of the country (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh, and Baluchistan). One-third of these incidents took place in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) bordering Afghanistan (west). In the southern province of Sindh (capital Karachi) 175 were killed in attacks, while 133 were killed in Baluchistan.
Terrorist attacks often target Westerners; examples include the September 2008 assault against the Islamabad Marriott Hotel (53 deaths) and a 2002 attack in Karachi that left 14 dead (including 12 French citizens).
The Afghan crisis regularly spills over the border into Pakistan, compounding the already-high terrorist threat. North Waziristan and South Waziristan, which are governed by tribal leaders, should be avoided notably to the presence of the Afghan Taliban. Most areas within Baluchistan, the border areas of Peshawar, and sections of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North-West Frontier Province) should also be avoided.
While foreign nationals are not specifically targeted, kidnappings nonetheless represent a significant risk due to their frequency. In 2016, 1900 abductions were reported in Punjab province and 174 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A resurgence in ethnic, religious, and political violence has been observed in Karachi over the past few years. Security forces have proven incapable of quelling the violence despite a significant reinforcement of security measures on the group, for example anti-crime operations carried out by the Sindh Rangers (see: seven terrorists neutralized by Sindh Rangers on February 20, 2017).
In July 2017 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power by the Supreme Court after the Panama Papers leaks revealed he and his family used offshore holding companies. Sharif was charged with corruption in October 2017, which prompted his followers to hold a number of demonstrations, some of them outside Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport (ISB). Sharif enjoy substantial support, notably in Punjab province, where several demonstrations have also taken place.
Relations between Pakistan and India have deteriorated since the summer of 2016 due to growing tensions in Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), resulting in diplomats being removed by both countries. Tensions in the area have increased due to a general strike by various separatist movements, including violent protests that left around 100 people dead in early July and mid-October 2016. Cross-border attacks by the armed forces of both countries have increased and are ongoing as of the end of 2017 (e.g. repeated armed incidents), despite calls for an end to hostilities from the international community.
The next legislative and presidential elections will take place in September 2018.
Due to locals' dangerous driving habits, often substandard highways, and a general disregard for rules of the road - in addition to the added risk of an armed attack - the use of public transportation (buses as well as trains) is ill-advised. Travelers should be extremely cautious while driving on highways outside of cities.
Driving becomes particularly hazardous during the winter months, as the sudden increase in the demand of electricity prompted by falling temperatures results in heavy smog and poor visibility on the roads, especially in the densely populated urban areas of Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan provinces. No less than 50 smog-related traffic accidents were reported in the Lahore region in a three-day period of severe air pollution in early November 2017.
Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. A massive earthquake took place in October 2005 in Azad Kashmir, resulting in 80,000 deaths.
The country regularly experiences flooding, which is often deadly. In June 2017, severe flooding killed 164 people and injured 200 more. Unprecedented flooding that occurred in August 2010 after an unusually heavy monsoon season left 3 million people homeless and impacted 17 million people overall.
The Pakistani state's capacity to deal with the challenges presented by natural disasters is often insufficient.
Outside of large urban zones, where hospitals are decently equipped, medical facilities offer care far below Western standards.
Prior to travel to Pakistan, ensure that all routine vaccinations (e.g. diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, pertussis, chicken pox, yearly flu shot) are up to date and that no booster shots are due.
Large cities were affected by a thick smog (air pollution) in early November 2017, prompted by the sudden increase in the demand of electricity due to falling temperatures. During such periods, and due to health risks associated with severe air pollution, it is advisable to limit outdoor activities, especially intense physical exertion.
Malaria is widely present in areas below 2000 m (6500 ft), particularly rural areas, from July to December. The risk is highest in Sindh (Indus valley), Baluchistan, and Punjab provinces. Strains present in the country are resistant to chloroquine.
To reduce the risk of contracting a food- or water-borne disease, do not drink tap water or beverages with ice. Avoid any undercooked dishes, especially meats and seafood, and any other foods that cannot be thoroughly cooked, peeled, or disinfected (e.g. ice cream, berries, etc.). Bring anti-diarrheal medications with you and wash your hands thoroughly before meals.
Pakistan has a continental climate; weather conditions can vary greatly from region to region as well from season to season and from day to day. Generally speaking there are three main seasons: a cool to cold winter (October to February), a hot summer (March to June), and a hot, humid, and rainy monsoon season (July to September). Temperatures tend to be higher in the south, cooling progressively as you travel north.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +92 Police, Fire Dept., Ambulance: 171
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Pakistan: Election Commission bars PML-N from Mar. 3 Senate elections /update 1
TIMEFRAME: from 2/22/2018, 12:00 AM until 3/3/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Karachi).
Pakistan: Nationwide chikungunya outbreak continues
TIMEFRAME: from 2/13/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/15/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Karachi).