What should you know before traveling to Pakistan?
One of the keys to being safe while providing aid overseas is knowing about the country you will be working in. As part of our effort to help keep our valuable aid workers safe, O’Gara has decided to publish articles focused on the security concerns of the top countries visited by humanitarian workers. Aid workers face dangers not only while on the job, but also while enjoying their time off and taking in all the location has to offer. For this reason, we will be covering a wide array of threats in these articles. This article will cover the country of Pakistan.
Due to natural disasters and the flood of refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan has become a popular destination for aid workers. There have been numerous organizations operating within Pakistan for quite a while now. These organizations state that the most important thing to remember when working in Pakistan is to be sensitive to their particular cultural and political underpinnings. If organizations can do that, they will be successful in their endeavors in Pakistan.
However, security is one of the largest concerns for NGO workers in Pakistan. It should come as no surprise that over the past decade, various regions of Pakistan have endured high levels of insecurity. There have been attacks ranging from attacks on law enforcement and schools to sectarian violence and targeting medical professionals providing vaccinations, demonstrating that there has been no distinct pattern to the violence. The only constant throughout these instances of insecurity have been the high price paid by the civilian population of Pakistan.
This high level of insecurity is the reason that Humanitarian Outcomes has listed Pakistan as one of the top five most dangerous places for aid workers.
Aid workers in Pakistan have experienced very violent attacks in the past, and analysts suggest that this trend will continue. One of the biggest threats to aid workers in the region is kidnapping.
At the moment, the US Department of State suggests reconsidering traveling to Pakistan due to the heavy threat of terrorist attacks. Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and NGO employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel are very common. Terrorists in the area have targeted US diplomats and diplomatic facilities and have also resorted to kidnapping for ransom.
Particular regions in the area that have been identified as highly dangerous, particularly to foreigners, due to terrorist activity and the potential for armed conflict. Those areas are: the Balochistan Province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Azad Kashmir. Aid workers are mostly located in the KP and FATA, and over the years half of the attacks on aid workers in Pakistan took place in these regions.
In order to stay safe when traveling to Pakistan, the US Department of State has made the following suggestions:
- Practice situational awareness, and pay particular attention to your surroundings and local events.
- Vary your travel routes and timing, especially for routine trips (this will help keep you from being the victim of kidnapping
- Try to keep trips to public markets, restaurants, government or military institutions or other locations short.
- Try not to have too many US or other Western nationals gathered in any one location at a time.
- Avoid staying at hotels that do not employ stringent security measures.
- Take a photo of your passport, entry stamp, and Pakistani visa, and keep the copies with you at all times. Also keep digital copies of these documents in a secure, electronically secure place.
For more travel updates, you can visit the US Department of State’s website here.
O’Gara Training is dedicated to educating individuals about Safety and Security while traveling abroad, especially when they are on such an important mission as NGOs/NGOs often are. If you are interested in taking our HEAT course for NGOs/NGOs to further the safety and security of your aid workers, please do not hesitate to contact us!