Safety in Pakistan is bound to be a concern for expats. There is a threat of terrorism throughout the country, mainly due to the presence of an anti-state and anti-Western organisation known as Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan (TTP). Other terrorist organisations believed to have a presence in Pakistan include Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
While opinions differ, a number of embassies – including those of the USA and the UK – warn their citizens to avoid anything but essential travel to most parts of the country. Expats already in the country should minimise the time spent in public locations.
Crime in Pakistan
There is a high level of crime in Pakistan, especially in large cities such as Karachi and Islamabad. Muggings are frequent and are sometimes escalated to kidnapping. Carjacking and robberies are common too, so new arrivals should avoid travelling alone at night and always remain aware of their surroundings. It's best to be as inconspicuous as possible, keeping valuables out of sight, so as to avoid attracting any unwanted attention.
When it comes to abiding by local laws, expats should be aware that homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan, as is importing pork or alcohol products. In addition, it is illegal for unmarried couples to live together. Possession of illegal narcotics is punished harshly and offenders may even be sentenced to death.
Terrorism in Pakistan
The country has experienced a number of terrorist attacks of varying violence. These attacks often target local government officials as well as foreigners. Previous targets include embassies, international schools, hospitals, government buildings, religious shrines and airports.
Expats can keep themselves safe by avoiding areas with large crowds, particularly any political gatherings, rallies or demonstrations. The period leading up to national and provincial elections can be a particularly dangerous time.
Earthquakes in Pakistan
Pakistan is a major earthquake zone. In the event of an earthquake, there is also the threat of aftershocks, landslides and flooding. The last major earthquake that hit Pakistan measured 6.1 on the Richter scale and affected various parts of the country including Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.
Expats need to ensure they have plans and provisions in place for this kind of emergency which may result in an emergency evacuation from the country.
Health safety in Pakistan
There are a few issues to note when it comes to healthcare in Pakistan. It is one of two countries in the world where polio is still a threat.
Expats should make sure their vaccinations are up to date for polio, hepatitis and measles before departing for Pakistan. The country also experiences malaria and dengue fever, and the necessary precautions should be taken, especially for those who may be travelling to more rural parts of the country.
It is important to note that while private hospitals can be found in major Pakistani cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, the standards are not nearly as good as most expats would likely expect. Therefore, we would advise expats to ensure they have a fully comprehensive health insurance policy that covers them for evacuation to neighbouring countries and repatriation, if necessary.