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Pakistan Country Report

Country Risk Level

Critical

Overview

Executive Summary

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus pandemic presents a challenge to the popularity of the ruling PTI and its relations with the military. A perception by the military that the government has mishandled the pandemic would increase the likelihood of it ceasing its support for the PTI, probably in favour of opposition parties. This would result in generally higher government instability risks, with PTI remaining in power but the military supporting anti-government protests and pressuring PTI’s coalition partners to defect. Containment measures and weakened global demand amid the COVID-19 virus pandemic will cause the economy to contract by 2.1% in fiscal year (FY) 2019/20 (ended 30 June 2020) before a gradual recovery during FY 2020/21, leading to growth of 2.6%. The reinstatement of the containment measures could further affect growth during FY 2020/21.There have been no major Islamist militant attacks on commercial assets or airports since 2015, owing to a strong military presence in the former Tribal Areas where Islamist militant groups were previously based. However, ethnonationalist separatist groups operating in Sindh and Balochistan provinces are becoming increasingly active, The groups announced an alliance in July 2020, and meaningful co-ordination between Baloch and Sindhi separatists will likely increase the terrorism threat for Chinese expatriates in Karachi in particular.The risk of a broader military escalation between India and Pakistan – involving larger military mobilisation and the deployment of aviation assets, mainly confined to the disputed Kashmir region – was initially mitigated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ostensibly diminished reputation domestically stemming from India’s border confrontation with China widens the scope for further India-Pakistan military confrontation in the next year.

Operational Outlook

The PTI-led government encourages foreign direct investment, and has signalled intent to improve the country’s operating environment. Details have not yet been released, but any plan would have to tackle Pakistan’s governance issues, corruption, and excessive regulation. The emphasis on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is likely to shift towards developmental, industrial, and transport sectors as the initiative’s focus shifts towards improving exports and actualising CPEC’s primary objective of developing trade and connectivity between China, Pakistan, and the broader region. Strikes are particularly likely in the transportation and power transmission sectors, and pose risks of collateral damage to property.

Terrorism

High

Non-state armed group attacks decreased by 13% across the country during 2019, marking a fourth consecutive year of declining attacks. The data underline that Islamist militant groups continue to struggle to reorganise following military operations against their strongholds in 2014, reducing the frequency and capability of their attacks. We expect the terrorism risk to airports, ports, hotels, infrastructure, and government installations to reduce further over the coming year, although there is an increasing risk of separatists staging suicide assaults or improvised explosive device attacks against restaurants and hotels frequented by Chinese nationals in Balochistan and Sindh.

Crime

According to Pakistani police data, incidents of homicides have decreased annually since 2014, when 13,276 people were killed. In 2019, 8,193 murders were recorded, constituting a murder rate of 4 per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide. Nevertheless, broader crime remains prevalent throughout the country; mugging, carjacking, mobile-phone snatching, and kidnapping of industrialists and business owners is a particular problem, particularly in Karachi, the country's financial hub. Militant groups also often resort to crime, including bank robberies and extortion, to fund their activities. However, foreigners are not at greater risk of being targeted than locals.

War Risks

Military escalation between India and Pakistan is unlikely during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus pandemic, as both governments will likely focus on containing their domestic outbreaks. However, after the pandemic concludes, we assess that there will be a growing risk of escalated military confrontation in line with a marked decline in bilateral relations since 2014. Any escalation would likely remain contained to Kashmir and both sides would probably seek to target military assets (in the case of India, separatist militants) in Kashmir, as opposed to critical infrastructure, before seeking de-escalation.

Social Stability

Opposition parties are likely to organise regular protests against the government over anti-corruption investigations against senior opposition figures. However, these are unlikely to cause major disruption or result in violence. More violent unrest is likely to be driven by Islamist groups campaigning in support of blasphemy laws, resulting in intermittent periods of violent protests and road blockades across all major cities. Security forces will probably use tear gas, water cannon, and baton charges if protesters break police cordons or threaten high-security areas. Although there are civil society campaigns against some commercial projects, these rarely turn violent or derail projects politically.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over nine months of age arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and for travelers who have been in transit for >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. A massive earthquake took place in October 2005 in Azad Kashmir, resulting in 80,000 deaths.

The country regularly experiences flooding, which is often deadly. In June 2017, severe flooding killed 164 people and injured 200 more. Unprecedented flooding that occurred in August 2010 after an unusually heavy monsoon season left 3 million people homeless and impacted 17 million people overall.

The Pakistani state's capacity to deal with the challenges presented by natural disasters is often insufficient.

Transportation

Due to locals' dangerous driving habits, often substandard highways, and a general disregard for rules of the road - in addition to the added risk of an armed attack - the use of public transportation (buses as well as trains) is ill-advised. Travelers should be extremely cautious while driving on highways outside of cities.

Driving becomes particularly hazardous during the winter months, as the sudden increase in the demand of electricity prompted by falling temperatures results in heavy smog and poor visibility on the roads, especially in the densely populated urban areas of Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan provinces. No less than 50 smog-related traffic accidents were reported in the Lahore region in a three-day period of severe air pollution in early November 2017.

Practical Information

Climate

Pakistan has a continental climate; weather conditions can vary greatly from region to region as well from season to season and from day to day. Generally speaking there are three main seasons: a cool to cold winter (October to February), a hot summer (March to June), and a hot, humid, and rainy monsoon season (July to September). Temperatures tend to be higher in the south, cooling progressively as you travel north.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +92
Police, Fire Dept., Ambulance: 171

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal