Travel Risk in Pakistan
Pakistan’s security environment is highly challenging due to a complex regional issues and multiple layers of insurgency, terrorism and violent crime. Pakistan’s fractious history, weak standards of governance and location in a region that is highly geopolitically sensitive indicates that high levels of inherent risk will continue in the long-term. Principle risks for travellers relate to criminal activity and indiscriminate threat of terrorist attacks in major cities. Bouts of civil unrest are also common and can occur over religious, political and economic issues. Some regions including Quetta of Balochistan, Karachi in Sindh as well as Islamabad and Rawalpindi are also more prone to attacks. In terms of foreign policy, Pakistan’s rivalry with India also resulted in regular clashes at the border with the most serious ones taking place in February 2019.
The travel risk rating for Pakistan is MEDIUM
Recently the situation in Pakistan has changed. So what’s happened?
Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested in Islamabad on 9 May 2023 accused of corruption. Pakistan is currently facing political crisis with protests and violence taking place in every major city.
The arrest has ignited mass protests nationwide with reports indicating that at least one person has been killed. Protesters have blocked main roads in and out of the capital city Islamabad. Supporters of Imran Khan are angry about his arrest and are targeting military bases and personnel.
11 May 2023
Reports indicate that the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party has called for a protest at H-11 Police Lines, the headquarters of the Islamabad Police, at 14:00 (local time) on May 11.
PTI chief and former Prime Minster Imran Khan is being held at the police headquarters after being arrested on May 10 from the Islamabad High Court premises. His arrest triggered violent protests across Pakistan, especially in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Rawalpindi.
Given the elevated sensitivities attached to Khan’s arrest and the polarized political climate in Pakistan, the PTI protest, which is liable to witness a turnout in the mid-to-high hundreds.
The demonstrators may resort to stone pelting and torching of tires during confrontations with the authorities. The security forces, for their part, are liable to adopt forcible dispersal tactics, including the firing of tear gas and water cannons.
Ad-hoc road closures and significant travel disruptions can be anticipated in the vicinity of Police Lines.
9 May 2023
Reports indicate that bans were imposed on public gatherings in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Rawalpindi on 9 May. Paramilitary forces were deployed, and security was placed on the highest red alert in Islamabad, ahead of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairperson and former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s expected arrival at the Police Lines Headquarters (PLH) on 10 May.
Nationwide protests erupted following Khan’s arrest on 9 May. PTI protesters reportedly breached the Pakistani Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi and the Corps Commander’s residence in Lahore. Several party supporters were injured in altercations with the police nationwide.
Additionally, disruptions to broadband and mobile internet services continue to be reported in multiple places as of 10 May.
Further, the US Embassy in Islamabad cancelled all consular appointments for 10 May.
Violent protests are likely to continue nationwide as of 10 May, especially near prominent security installations. The authorities are expected to respond forcibly, including baton charging and arresting participants.
As seen in protests over the past few days, the protest carries a high risk of unrest. The threat of clashes between the protesters and authorities is particularly pronounced given the reinforced security measures around the police headquarters, which PTI supporters may attempt to breach to reach Khan.
Disruptions to business continuity, communication, and travel across the nation are likely to continue due to the bolstered security measures over the coming hours and days.
Those operating or residing in Pakistan on 10 May and over the coming days are advised to avoid all PTI-linked protests given the elevated likelihood of violence and unrest amid ongoing security measures.
If in the area, allow for disruptions to travel and seek alternate routes to minimise delays.
Book a free demo and 30 day trial of our SPHERE platform to find out more about our global alerts, country information and intelligence services.