4 countries issue travel advisories to Pakistan after Imran Khan's arrest

Expats and travellers were advised to reconsider trips amid the unstable political situation

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A supporter of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan throws stones towards po— Reuters
A supporter of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan throws stones towards po— Reuters

Published: Fri 12 May 2023, 1:42 PM

Last updated: Fri 12 May 2023, 3:09 PM

Deadly riots erupted after Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested earlier this week, prompting some countries to issue travel alerts.

Clashes between Khan's supporters and the police continued for the third day on Friday as the PTI chief appeared at an Islamabad court under heavy security. He had been taken into custody on corruption charges — but, on Thursday, Pakistan's top court declared his arrest illegal. He was ordered to remain in the bench's custody under police protection for his own safety until his court appearance today.


Local media said that as roads were cleared for Khan's convoy on Friday, bouts of violence were still being reported in Islamabad.

With the situation still unstable, various countries' security alerts and travel notices remained in place. Foreign missions are closely monitoring the unrest.


US

The US Embassy in Islamabad temporarily restricted the movements of its personnel to only official travel, considering road closures.

Americans in the South Asian country were urged to "avoid large gatherings, unnecessary travel, and remain vigilant of their surroundings".

"Citizens are reminded of potential disruptions to cell-phone service and should have contingency communication plans in place if traveling in-country. U.S. citizens are urged to pay attention to local media for security updates and planned road closures and maintain good situational awareness and security wherever they travel in Pakistan," it added.

UK

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK also urged its citizens to "avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and political events" in Pakistan.

"If you find yourself near protests, turn away and move to a safe place," it added. People were also alerted to Internet connectivity disruptions, including mobile networks, and nationwide blocks of social media websites.

Australia

Australian travel authorities told the public to reconsider their trip to Pakistan amid the situation.

"There are ongoing protests in Pakistan. Avoid demonstrations and protests. These can turn violent. The security situation is evolving and remains unpredictable. Authorities may suspend internet and mobile phone networks and close roads and highways at short notice," their latest advisory on Friday read.

Canada

The government of Canada has placed Pakistan on yellow alert, advising travellers to exercise a high degree of caution "due to the unpredictable security situation".

"There is a threat of terrorism, civil unrest, sectarian violence and kidnapping," it said in an advisory.

"The security situation is evolving and remains unpredictable. If you are in Pakistan: follow the instructions of local authorities; avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place; always be aware of your surroundings when in public places; monitor local media for the latest on the situation," it added.

Hundreds arrested

Violence sparked by Khan's arrest has aggravated instability in the country of 220 million people at a time of severe economic crisis, with record high inflation, anaemic growth and delayed IMF funding.

Nearly 2,000 people have been arrested for violence since Khan's detention on Tuesday and at least eight have been killed.

Protesters have attacked military establishments, ransacked the house of a top army general in the eastern city of Lahore, and set ablaze state buildings and assets in other places.

Khan's party has maintained it has only called for peaceful protests.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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