UK relaxes travel advisory for Pakistan but advises not to travel in certain areas especially in KPK, Balochistan and Kashmir

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Nation special report

ISLAMABAD: The UK Government on Friday (January 24) relaxed its travel advice for Pakistan, saying that the announcement was the result of a comprehensive review of the UK based on a wide-ranging assessment of the country’s security situation. But on FCO website in London, it is also suggested not to travel in various areas of Pakistan.

A British High Commission, in a statement in Islamabad, said the UK had changed its travel advice to reflect the improved security situation in Pakistan. This is the first major update in the travel advice since 2015.

Pakistan immediately welcomed the UK decision. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tweeted: “Pakistan, land of peace and progress with incredible natural beauty, warmth and hospitality. This change in travel advice is encouraging, the first major update to the UK’s travel advisory to Pakistan since 2015. This will further strengthen Pak-UK relations. Welcome to Pakistan.”

London: January 24, 2020: High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakaria briefing media on improved travel advice of UK for Pakistan says it will bring our two peoples closer and increase tourism & investment in Pakistan.

He gave credit to the armed forces and the whole nation for improving the security situation. “I spoke to my British counterpart on this also. This is a great news. We will soon be out of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) if our case is considered on merit,” he added.

In London, Pakistan High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakaria hurriedly called a press conference to welcome the British decision and appreciated it saying it as good omen for Pakistan.

This week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had also urged US President Donald Trump to improve its travel advisory to Pakistan as the ties between the two countries improved.

The British High Commission statement, said: “The improved security situation allowed for the return of British Airways to Pakistan in June 2019 and the visit by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in October 2019.  Among other changes, the advice now allows for travel by road to the North of Pakistan as well as the Kalesh and Bamboret Valleys.”

Dr Christian Turner, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, said: “Following my arrival in December 2019, I made this review of the travel advice a priority. It is great credit to the hard work of the Government of Pakistan in delivering improved security over the past five years. I am delighted that British nationals will be able to see more of what Pakistan has to offer.’’

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office provide travel advice based on objective information to help British nationals make better informed decisions about foreign travel. The new travel advice for Pakistan reduces the section of the Karakoram Highway where the FCO advises against all travel to the area between Mansehra and Chilas alone. The previous travel advice covered the full route from Islamabad to Gilgit. Travellers may bypass this section by taking the alternative route through the Kaghan Valley and Babusar Pass.

The FCO no longer advises against all but essential travel to the Kalesh and Bamboret valleys. The FCO advises against all travel to most of Balochistan, including the city of Quetta. This is except for the southern coast of Balochistan, including the city of Gwadar, where the FCO advises against all but essential travel.  

Like all FCO travel advice, these changes are based on security assessments, which are kept under constant review. In 2018, there were an estimated 484,000 visits by British nationals to Pakistan. There are 22 weekly direct flights to the UK, the BHC said in the statement.

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Pak areas still not to be travelled

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

the areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas

  • the districts of Charsadda, Kohat, Tank, Bannu, Lakki, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Buner and Lower Dir in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
  • the city of Peshawar and districts south of the city, including travel on the Peshawar to Chitral road via the Lowari Pass
  • Balochistan province including the city of Quetta but excluding the southern coast of Balochistan (see below)
  • the section of the Karakoram Highway (also known as Kara Karam Highway or KKH) from Mansehra to Chilas, via Battagram, Besham City, Dasu and Sazin
  • the immediate vicinity of the Line of Control

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

  • Arandu town and the road between Mirkhana and Arandu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province
  • the southern coast of Balochistan, defined as the area south of (and including) the N10 motorway as well as the section of the N25 which runs from N10/N25 intersection to the Balochistan/Sindh border, including the port city of Gwadar
  • areas of Sindh Province north of, and including, the city of Nawabshah

In recent years, the security situation in Pakistan has improved considerably following action by the Pakistan government and security forces. In 2018, there were an estimated 484,000 visits by British nationals to Pakistan. Most visits are trouble-free.

Following a terrorist attack in Pulwama on 14 February 2019, there are heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, particularly across the Line of Control. Certain flight routes or airports continue to experience restrictions. You should check with your airline for the latest information on the status of your flight before travelling to the airport for any flight to and from Pakistan.

Protests can take place throughout Pakistan with little warning and turn violent quickly. You should avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events. See Safety and security

Some periods of the year may pose heightened risks. During holy periods/religious holidays, there is an increased potential for targeted attacks, including on western interests and religious minorities.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Pakistan. There’s a high threat of terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout the country, including the major cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. Foreigners, in particular westerners, may be directly targeted. You should be vigilant, try to avoid all crowds and public events including political gatherings and religious events throughout Pakistan, and take appropriate security precautions.

Densely populated and unsecured areas, such as markets, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, airports, public transport, schools and educational institutions are potential focal points for attacks. You should be extra vigilant at all times in such areas and minimise your exposure to areas that pose a higher risk. 

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Nafees Zakria welcomes

Pakistan’s High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakaria has welcomed the decision of the UK government’s revival of travel advisory for Pakistan and said that this good news would help bring people of the two friendly countries more closer to each other, besides boosting tourism and British investments for the development of Pakistan.

In a hurriedly called press briefing at the high commission on Friday afternoon, he said; “We welcome and appreciate this the decision of the UK government which would help further strengthening the bilateral cordial relations between the two friendly countries in diverse fields, besides increasing tourism and investments in Pakistan for the prosperity of the country and its people.”

 “UK is an important country in the world and this decision would definitely put a positive impact on other countries especially in Europe and their peoples would also visit Pakistan and explore adventure and beauty of our country to promote tourism and also help bring investments in the country”, he remarked.

Nafees Zakaria recalled that due to the improved security situation in Pakistan, the UK Government also allowed British Airways to resume its flights and services to Pakistan in June last year, while the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in October last year also reflected the improved security situation in the country.

He said that other international airlines have also started their flights operations to Pakistan. He said that due to prudent economic and tourism policies and investment-friendly environment initiated by the incumbent Pakistan government, the image of the country has started improving.

Nafees Zakaria quoting the World Bank Group doing business report said that
due to the concerted improvement in business regulations, Pakistan climbed 28 places and rose to the rank of 108 in the Global ease of doing business ranking. This was also a big achievement of the present government, he said.

Similarly, he said International credit rating agency Moody’s has also changed Pakistan’s outlook to stable and affirming B3. He said many international travels agencies like the British Backpacker Society and famous American publication Conde Nast Travelers have declared Pakistan as the top tourist attraction and destination in the world due to its unparalleled natural beauty and expressed the hope that decision of the UK government, Pakistan would attract more foreign tourists across the globe including the UK.

He also assured the British investors and Pakistani diaspora in UK that the High Commission would fully facilitate and cooperate with them for their investments in Pakistan. He said that doors of the High Commission would be open to Pakistani diaspora and community and emphasized on close liaison between mission and the diaspora particularly their economic engagements with Pakistan.

Nafees Zakaria informed that more than 128 British corporations were making profitable investments in Pakistan, while more than 1000 foreign companies were also engaged in various businesses and earning profits in the country.

He specially mentioned the opening up of Kartarpur corridor for Sikh community across the globe. He added that due to this initiative of the present government, the number of Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan from different countries had doubled. Pakistan, he said has also introduced online visa policy for the foreigners, which has also helped improve the tourist’s inflow in the country.