Pakistan

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 20 August 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security (anti-government demonstrations are taking place in Islamabad and may occur in Rawalpindi, Lahore and other cities across Pakistan. Australians should avoid all demonstrations). We continue to strongly advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Pakistan overall due to the unpredictable security situation, including the high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping and sectarian violence.

Pakistan overall

Balochistan, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Border areas with Afghanistan and India (excluding Lahore, Kasur and Narowal)

Summary

  • We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Pakistan at this time due to the unpredictable security situation, including the high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping and sectarian violence.
  • If you do decide to travel to Pakistan, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are in Pakistan and concerned for your safety, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.
  • Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time in Pakistan. There is a high threat of terrorist attack against places that are frequented by foreigners, including Australians. For a list of possible targets, see Safety and Security: Terrorism.
  • The Pakistan Army is currently undertaking a counter-insurgency operation in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) of northern Pakistan, resulting in military action and a large number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Due to possible retaliatory terrorist incidents by militants, security forces across Pakistan have been placed on high alert. There may be an increase in the presence of security forces, and restrictions on movement at short notice. We continue to strongly advise against all travel to this region. Australians in FATA should depart immediately.
  • Pakistan’s civil aviation facilities have recently come under increasing threat. On 8-9 June, a group of terrorists attacked the cargo-handling section of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, resulting in a prolonged battle and up to 30 deaths (including all the terrorists); on 23 June, a riot outside Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Rawalpindi-Islamabad caused the closure of the airport for a short time; and on 24 June, gunmen fired at a passenger airliner as it was approaching Peshawar Airport to land, killing one passenger and injuring two crew members. Such attacks could occur again in the future. We advise travellers to check flight status and airport operations prior to travelling and remain alert for security developments.
  • Security at the Australian High Commission in Islamabad has been strengthened and remains under constant review. Staff are advised to minimise their use of restaurants and international hotels and to avoid the Kohsar Market in F-6 Islamabad and Centaurus Mall in F-8. Australians in Islamabad should also avoid these locations.
  • There have been a number of recent terrorist attacks in Islamabad. On 24 May 2014, bombs were detonated in the F-6 market area and G-9 sector of Islamabad. This follows an attack on a fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of Islamabad in early April and a suicide attack on a court in the F-8 market area in early March.
  • Anti-government demonstrations are taking place in Islamabad and may occur in Rawalpindi, Lahore and other cities across Pakistan.
  • Australians in all parts of Pakistan should avoid all demonstrations, political events, rallies and processions and large-scale public gatherings, as they may turn violent. Demonstrations could also be targeted at perceived western interests. As a precaution, you should avoid areas where people congregate after Friday prayers.
  • There is a high threat of kidnapping across the whole of Pakistan, but particularly in Karachi, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Australians should ensure that they have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.
  • Political and sectarian violence continues in Karachi. There has been a high death toll as a result of escalating violence in the city. We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Karachi.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to FATA, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (including the Swat Valley and Peshawar), and Balochistan due to the extremely dangerous security environment. If you are in these areas, you should consider leaving.
  • On 5 May 2014, the World Health Organization declared the recent international spread of wild poliovirus a “public health emergency of international concern” and has issued temporary recommendations that may affect your travel to Pakistan.
  • Given the unpredictable security situation and high threat of terrorist activity and violence, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency. The Australian High Commission operates a text message alert system for registered Australians.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of Pakistan for the most up-to-date information.

Foreign passport holders who do not comply with their visa conditions may face heavy penalties. This applies to people travelling on Australian passports, including dual nationals. You should take care not to overstay the limit of your visa.

If you are arriving from or have transited a country infected with yellow fever, you may be required to present a valid yellow fever certificate to be granted entry into Pakistan.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Pakistan at this time due to the very high threat of terrorist attack and volatile security situation. If you do decide to travel to Pakistan, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are in Pakistan and concerned for your safety, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.

The Pakistan Army is currently undertaking a counter-insurgency operation in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) of northern Pakistan, resulting in military action and a large number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Due to possible retaliatory terrorist incidents by militants, security forces across Pakistan have been placed on high alert. There may be an increase in the presence of security forces, and restrictions on movement at short notice. We strongly advise against all travel to this region. Australians in this region should depart immediately.

There has been an increase in terrorist activity in Pakistan in 2014, with a succession of deadly attacks in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Pakistan’s civil aviation facilities have recently come under increasing threat. On 8-9 June 2014, a group of terrorists attacked the cargo-handling section of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, resulting in a prolonged battle and up to 30 deaths (including all the terrorists); on 23 June 2014, a riot outside Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Rawalpindi-Islamabad caused the closure of the airport for a short time; and on 24 June 2014 gunmen fired at a passenger airliner as it was approaching Peshawar Airport to land, killing one passenger and injuring two crew members. Similar attacks could occur again in the future. We advise travellers to check flight status and airport operations prior to travelling and remain alert for security developments.

On 24 May 2014, bombs were detonated in the F-6 market area and G-9 sector of Islamabad. On 9 2014 April, an attack on a fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of Islamabad, in the area between it and its twin city Rawalpindi, killed at least 20 people and injured up to 100. An extremist attack on a District Court House in F-8 Islamabad on 3 March 2014 resulted in the deaths of 13 people and wounded 34.

During 2013, more than 800 people were killed and 1,500 injured in major terrorist attacks. These were concentrated in the regions of Quetta and other parts of Balochistan, Karachi, Peshawar and other parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. We continue to see credible reports of ongoing planning for attacks.

Many terrorist attacks in Pakistan have involved multiple, consecutive explosions.

Terrorist targets

A significant number of terrorist groups hostile to Western interests operate in Pakistan. Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time in Pakistan.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided at venues. Possible targets include crowded locations likely to result in a large number of casualties, places frequented by foreigners; clubs, restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets; embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic interests; educational facilities including universities and international schools; international hotels; places of worship, such as mosques and churches; shopping centres, banks, markets (markaz) and bazaars; airports and aviation interests (including foreign flagged airliners); compact disc and video shops; convention centres, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and other crowded places; and identifiably Western interests, premises and symbols, including businesses and non-government organisations (NGOs).

Premises and symbols associated with the Pakistani Government and security forces are frequent targets for attacks. Judicial buildings, such as courts, public transport and transport infrastructure, including trains and airports have been attacked, along with military and police personnel, police stations and checkpoints.

Attacks against religious sites in Pakistan have resulted in large-scale civilian casualties. Attacks against religious sites could occur in any part of Pakistan, especially at times of religious festivals.

Militants may mount attacks in the lead-up to and on occasions of national or commemorative significance, such as Pakistan National Day (23 March), the storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad by government troops (which occurred in July 2007) and Independence Day (14 August).

In June 2013, terrorists attacked and killed nine foreigners and a Pakistani national at the Nanga Parbat high-altitude mountaineering base camp in Gilgit–Baltistan.

Humanitarian workers and foreign aid agencies have been targeted by militants in the past.

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnapping across the whole of Pakistan, but particularly in Karachi, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

In 2012 and 2013, there was a spate of kidnappings involving foreign nationals, including aid workers, from locations across Pakistan. Some remain in captivity.

Australians should ensure that they have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians.

For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat bulletin.

Advice to High Commission staff

Due to the very high threat of terrorist attack in Pakistan, security at the Australian High Commission in Islamabad is at a high level. The Australian Government has a “no children at post” policy for Islamabad.

Staff have been advised to minimise their use of restaurants and international hotels, to limit visits to shopping areas and avoid walking in Islamabad. They are advised to avoid Kohsar Market in F-6 Islamabad and Centaurus Mall F-8. Australians in Islamabad should also avoid these locations.

The Australian Consulates in Karachi and Lahore have been closed until further notice for security reasons.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

The security situation in Pakistan remains unpredictable and could deteriorate at short notice. Australians could be caught up in violent unrest. You are responsible for ensuring you are able to depart Pakistan at short notice and that your travel documentation (including visa) remains up-to-date.

Anti-government demonstrations are taking place in Islamabad and may occur in Rawalpindi, Lahore and other cities across Pakistan.

You should avoid all demonstrations, political events, rallies and processions and large-scale public gatherings, as they may turn violent. Demonstrations could also be targeted at perceived western interests. If you are in an area affected by demonstrations, find a safe location, remain indoors and heed local advice. You should closely monitor local information sources for details about possible safety and security risks.

As a precaution, you should also avoid areas where people congregate after Friday prayers in all parts of Pakistan.

International events and political developments in the region or elsewhere may prompt demonstrations or violent protests in any part of Pakistan. Perceived Western interests may become targets of such violence.

Political and sectarian violence in Karachi

Political, sectarian and gang violence continues in Karachi, with a high death toll. Pakistani police and para-military Rangers are conducting intermittent counter-terrorism operations in the city, resulting in a heightened level of public security across a wide part of the city. The operations, and reprisal attacks by militants or criminals may occur anywhere. There are also regular demonstrations, rallies and large public gatherings in Karachi which can turn violent. We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Karachi.

Gilgit

There have been several outbreaks of sectarian violence in the city of Gilgit in northern Pakistan in recent years. Violence can break out unexpectedly at any time, sometimes resulting in the imposition of a curfew and deployment of additional security forces. Australians finding themselves in that situation are advised to follow the instructions of security officials and remain in a safe location until the situation has calmed down or you are able to safely depart from Gilgit.

Border regions with Afghanistan

Federally Administered Tribal Areas: We advise you not to travel to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas due to security concerns and ongoing Pakistani military operations in border areas with Afghanistan. If you are in these areas, you should consider leaving. With the exception of the official border crossings, foreigners are prohibited from travelling within 50 kilometres of the border with Afghanistan in Gilgit Baltistan.

Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North-West Frontier Province): We advise you not to travel to Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa due to the volatile security environment. If you are in Balochistan or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (including Swat), you should consider leaving. Attacks against government, security and military interests in Balochistan are likely, as are attacks against oil, natural gas, power and communications infrastructure and transport, including the railway network.

Border regions with India

We advise you not to travel to border areas with India (except for Lahore, Kasur and Narowal) due to the volatile security situation and heightened security arrangements along the border. If you are in an area close to the Pakistan-India border, you should consider leaving. You should be aware that foreigners are prohibited from travelling within 15 kilometres of the Kashmir Line of Control and the entire border with India, except for official border crossings.

Crime

Violent crime, including armed robbery, carjacking and kidnapping, occurs in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Karachi. You should drive with the doors locked and windows up.

There have been recent incidents in various cities in Pakistan (including Islamabad) of individuals impersonating police officers, including with fake police identification cards.

Pick-pocketing and petty theft is common.

Money and valuables

If you choose to travel to Pakistan, organise a variety of ways to access your money, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted as a means of exchange in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in Pakistan. Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia’s
Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Severe flooding of major waterways occurs regularly in Pakistan, causing loss of life and widespread damage to transport infrastructure. See Additional information: Natural disasters, severe weather and climate for further information.

The security situation in Pakistan is uncertain and could deteriorate at any time. Contact your travel agent and airline regarding temporary disruptions or suspension of transport services.

Road accidents are a common cause of death and injury. Road conditions and driving standards are poor, requiring extreme caution to be exercised all times. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Avoid the use of public transport, including buses, trains and taxis, due to the security risk and avoid travelling after dark where possible. You should use transport services provided by accredited tour operators and hotels.

Airline safety

Pakistan’s civil aviation facilities have recently come under increasing threat. On 8-9 June 2014, a group of terrorists attacked the cargo-handling section of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, resulting in a prolonged battle and up to 30 deaths (including all the terrorists); on 23 June 2014, a riot outside Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Rawalpindi-Islamabad caused the closure of the airport for a short time; and on 24 June 2014 gunmen fired at a passenger airliner as it was approaching Peshawar Airport to land, killing one passenger and injuring two crew members. Similar attacks could occur again in the future. We advise travellers to check flight status and airport operations prior to travelling and remain alert for security developments.

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

If you choose to travel to Pakistan, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences are severe in Pakistan and include the death penalty. Possession of even small quantities of "soft drugs" for recreational purposes can result in lengthy jail sentences, large fines and deportation.

The death penalty may be imposed for crimes including murder, rape, blasphemy and unlawful assembly.

Homosexuality is illegal. The act of sodomy is illegal in Pakistan and penalties include life imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is illegal for unmarried heterosexual couples to live together.

Although rare, corporal punishment may be imposed for some offences including robbery, public drunkenness and consumption of alcohol by a Muslim.

Importing alcohol and pork products is illegal in Pakistan.

You are advised not to take photographs of airports or military and government buildings and installations.

Attempting to convert a Muslim or encouraging a Muslim to abandon their religion is illegal.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money, laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Pakistan. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Wearing short-sleeved garments and shorts should be avoided, as should physical contact between men and women in public. Women may be targets of harassment, particularly if they are unaccompanied.

Information for dual nationals

Pakistan does not recognise dual nationality. If you or your father were born in Pakistan, you may be considered by authorities to be a Pakistani national even if you do not hold a Pakistani passport. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide you with consular assistance if you are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities and care in Pakistan is generally limited, with the exception of a select number of clinics and hospitals in major cities which approach Western standards. In most towns, as well as rural and remote areas, medical facilities are extremely limited. Hospitals in Pakistan usually require up-front payment, confirmation of insurance cover or guarantee of payment prior to admission. In the case of a serious illness or accident, a medical evacuation to Australia or a similar destination would be considered necessary. Depending on the immediacy, severity and circumstances of the case, a medivac could cost more than $A100,000.

Malaria is common in Pakistan, except in areas above 2000m. Chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistant strains are reported. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever) are present in Pakistan with outbreaks occurring from time to time. There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases where necessary; ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof; and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and measles) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and uncooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Cases of cholera have been reported periodically in Sindh.

Reports of malaria, skin infections, acute watery diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections usually increase following flooding.

Poliomyelitis remains endemic in Pakistan with travellers at risk of infection.

On 5 May 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the recent international spread of wild poliovirus a “public health emergency of international concern” and has issued temporary recommendations that may affect your travel to Pakistan.

It is recommended that Australians travelling to Pakistan are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook, prior to departure.

Australian travellers planning to visit Pakistan, and staying for periods greater than 4 weeks, will be required to carry documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Pakistan. If you do not have documented evidence of polio vaccination within this 12 month period, you may be required to be vaccinated prior to departure from Pakistan.

Please see your doctor to discuss your vaccination requirements. Further information is available from the Australian Department of Health polio website.

Avian influenza: The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Pakistan. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information on influenza.

Where to get help

The Australian High Commission in Islamabad may close temporarily to the public at short notice should concerns arise about security in the vicinity of the High Commission. You should telephone ahead before going to the High Commission. If you require emergency consular assistance, you should first telephone the High Commission or the Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra.

Access to the diplomatic zone in Islamabad, where the High Commission is located, has been restricted by the Pakistani Government for security reasons. Access to the High Commission is on foot from the UN Boulevard entrance to the enclave on Constitution Avenue, or via bus from the National Convention Centre at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Shahrah-E-Kashmir Road. An office in the car park of the Convention Centre has been set up to sell tickets and direct customers to the bus.

You can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian High Commission
Constitution Avenue and Ispahani Road
Diplomatic Enclave No. 1
Sector G-5/4
Islamabad PAKISTAN

Telephone: (92 51) 835 5500
Facsimile: (92 51) 282 0112
E-mail: consular.islm@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.pakistan.highcommission.gov.au

If you are travelling to Pakistan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High or Consulate.

The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre from anywhere in the world on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

During the monsoon season (July to September), flooding and landslides can occur with little warning throughout the country. In the past, floods have affected millions of people, resulting in many deaths. During these periods, fresh drinking water and food can be in short supply. The high risk of contracting a water-borne disease continues after the floods recede. Services and transport are often affected.

Cyclones can occur in coastal areas of Pakistan. For further information, see our severe weather page.

Pakistan is in an active seismic zone and is subject to earthquakes.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Some mountainous areas of Pakistan are subject to winter avalanches.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.