The UK Government has relaxed its travel advisory for Pakistan, citing improving security situation in the country, albeit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has, at the same time, advised against travelling in various areas of the country, including most of Balochistan. In a statement on Friday, the British High Commission in Islamabad said that the UK had changed its travel advice to reflect the improved security situation in Pakistan. This is the first major update in the travel advisory since 2015.
Pakistan immediately welcomed the decision, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi calling the move “encouraging” and one that will “further strengthen Pak-UK relations”.
“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,” Qureshi tweeted.
UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides 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 advisory covered the full route from Islamabad to Gilgit.
The FCO no longer advises against all but essential travel to the Kalesh and Bamboret valleys. It still advises against travel to most of Balochistan, including the city of Quetta. For the southern coast of Balochistan, 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. The FCO has further advised against all travel to the areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
This includes 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; 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; and the immediate vicinity of the Line of Control.
Furthermore, it advises 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.
Pak welcomes decision
In recent years, the security situation in Pakistan has improved considerably following action by the Pakistan government and security forces. Following a terrorist attack in Pulwama on 14 February 2019, tensions between India and Pakistan have heightened, particularly across the Line of Control. Certain flight routes or airports continue to experience restrictions.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakaria welcomed the decision of the UK government’s revival of travel advisory for Pakistan and said that the 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 decision of the UK government which would help further strengthen 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 people would also visit Pakistan and explore the adventure and beauty of our country to promote tourism and also help bring investments in the country,” he remarked.
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 flight operations to Pakistan. He said that due to prudent economic and tourism policies and an investment-friendly environment initiated by the incumbent Pakistan government, the image of the country has started improving.
(with ANI inputs)