While traveling or residing in Pakistan, U.S. citizens are required to abide by Pakistani laws. If an American citizen violates Pakistani law, he or she is subject to prosecution under Pakistani law.
What the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit Can and Cannot Do
If a U.S. citizen is arrested in Pakistan, the ACS unit can only help in specific ways. The ACS unit cannot get an American citizen out of prison, prevent the local authorities from deporting an American after release from jail, or interfere in civil or criminal proceedings. A U.S. passport does not entitle anyone in Pakistan to any special privileges.
After an arrest, we can: (1) make sure that the arrested person is given the rights and privileges guaranteed under Pakistani law as they apply to Pakistani nationals; (2) make sure that the arrested person knows the charges against him or her and is given reasonably prompt opportunity for defense; and (3) make sure that the arrested person is not mistreated in jail or while out on bail.
Someone will visit the arrested person to verify his or her well-being, communicate with family members, and assist the U.S. citizen in finding legal representation. (Note that all costs for attorneys are the responsibility of the U.S. citizen.)
Important: The Pakistani government is obliged to notify an arrestee without delay of his or her right to communicate with an American Consular Officer, and promptly to inform the nearest American government representative when an American is arrested. In practice, however, this does not always happen.
Contact the Embassy or Consulate
If your U.S. citizen relative or friend has been arrested, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at following numbers:
Islamabad: (+92) (51) 201-4000 or 5000
Lahore: (+92) (42) 3603-4000
Karachi: (+92) (21) 3527-5000
From the United States: 1-888-407-4747
To call the Pakistani police, dial 15.
Email: Click here to send us a message.
Legal System in Pakistan
The Pakistani legal system is based on English common law. The basic legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” applies here. An arrested person has the right to consult an attorney before making a statement. Any statement made to the police can be used against the defendant in court. Under Pakistani law, an arrested person must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours. Offenses are categorized as bailable or non-bailable. In practice, bail is often difficult to obtain for foreigners.
The law also requires prisoners to appear before the magistrate every 14 days. If the arrested person wishes to have a lawyer with him or her, legal aid from the local government is available upon request.
General Information on Emergency Services
General information on the range of emergency services available to U.S. citizens abroad is available here.