The US State Department has warned U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan. In a Travel Warning update issued on Wednesday, it reminded U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.
Protests have taken place across Pakistan against the United States, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and NATO. There have also been widespread demonstrations and large political rallies condemning drone strikes, Pakistan's ongoing energy crisis, and Pakistan's decision to reopen NATO transit routes to Afghanistan. These protests and demonstrations are likely to continue, the State Department said, and strongly urged U.S. citizens in Pakistan to avoid protests and large gatherings
The presence of al-Qaida, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Terrorists have attacked several civilian, government, and foreign targets. The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, and outdoor recreation events. Terrorists have disguised themselves as Pakistani security personnel to gain access to targeted areas. Some media reports have falsely identified U.S. diplomats - and to a lesser extent U.S. and other Western journalists and non-governmental organization workers - as being intelligence operatives or private security personnel.
Terrorists have executed coordinated attacks with multiple operatives using portable weaponry such as guns, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), suicide vests, and car bombs in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi.
Access to many areas of Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border, the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, and the area adjacent to the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed territory of Kashmir, is restricted by local government authorities for non-Pakistanis. Travel to any restricted region requires official permission from the Government of Pakistan. Failure to obtain such permission in advance can result in arrest and detention by Pakistani authorities. Due to security concerns, the U.S. government currently allows only essential travel within the FATA by U.S. officials. Travel to much of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Balochistan is also restricted.
The US Mission reminded its citizens that even peaceful demonstrations might become violent and advised them to avoid demonstrations. U.S. citizens should avoid setting patterns by varying times and routes for all required travel. U.S. citizens should ensure that their travel documents and visas are valid at all times. American officials are instructed to avoid use of public transportation and restrict their use of personal vehicles in response to security concerns.
Security threats might, on short notice, temporarily restrict the ability of the U.S. Missions, particularly in Peshawar, to provide routine consular services. All U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply for renewal of travel documents at least three months prior to expiration.
U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Pakistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to enroll with the Embassy in Islamabad or the Consulates General in Karachi, Lahore, or Peshawar. This enrollment can be completed online through the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) available on the Department of State website.
by RTT Staff Writer
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