The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad advises U.S. citizens to consider increased security precautions during the first ten days of the Muslim month of Muharram, which began on September 22.
Religious gatherings and public processions take place throughout Pakistan during Muharram, particularly during the first ten days of the month. The 9th and 10th days of Muharram (September 30 and October 1), known as “Ashura,” are typically marked by the largest processions which have, in the past, been targets of sectarian violence throughout the country. The U.S. Embassy expects very large processions (up to 100,000 participants on the 10th day) in major cities across Pakistan, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar. There will be a heavy police presence in major cities to maintain public safety throughout Muharram, especially near larger scheduled processions. Many roads will be blocked or heavily congested. Security check points are likely and some portions of major cities may be blocked off.
Muharram processions are solemn, religious events and are not tourist attractions. The processions and related events are often unpredictable. In the past, some processions have been the targets of sectarian attacks, resulting in deaths and injuries. Protests after attacks have also occurred, resulting in further restrictions on movement, to include the closure of highways and main roads within major cities, and causing further traffic congestion in cities.
The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid all procession routes and maintain an appropriate security posture through this period. U.S. government personnel will be under an increased security posture with more restricted movement from September 25 through October 2.
Anticipated routes in major cities may include the following:
Islamabad: In the vicinity of the G-6 and G-9 areas on September 29 and 30 and in Rawalpindi on October 1.
Lahore: The vicinity of the Civil Secretariat, Anarkali, Old Anarkali, Shadman, Islampura and the walled city (in particular Motchi Gate, Kashmiri Bazar, Kotwali, Rang Mahal, Urdu Bazar, Data Darbar, and the Lower Mall area).
Karachi: Processions will march from Nishter Park/Numaish (10 km north of the Consulate), via M.A. Jinnah Road, Saddar, and Bolton Market, to Husanian Iranian in Kharadar (4 km northwest of the Consulate). Auxiliary processions will also commence from outside downtown Karachi (i.e. Malir, Nazimabad, Liaqatabad, etc.) and move along Shara-e-Faisal, Shara-e-Quaideen, Gulbahar, Garden/Soldier Bazaar, Garden, Sadder, and Fatima Jinnah colony between the 9th and10th Muharram.
Peshawar: Processions will occur in the following locations: Main Saddar Road, Khyber Bazaar, Qisa Khwani Bazaar, Chowk Yadgar, and Kohati.
Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan recommends that U.S. citizens in Pakistan avoid demonstrations and other large crowds, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings. U.S. citizens should remain vigilant about their surroundings at all times, and monitor local media for updates. U.S. citizens should carry appropriate identity documents when in Pakistan and should cooperate with police and security forces in any encounter. Cellphone connections may be disrupted during periods of unrest.
For Further Information:
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, all Worldwide Travel Alerts, the active Travel Warning for Pakistan, and Pakistan Country Specific Information.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Contact the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, +92 51 201 4000. (Calling within Pakistan, dial 051 201 4000.) This number also is available 24 hours a day for emergencies involving U.S. citizens in other parts of Pakistan. See also https://pk.usembassy.gov.
- Contact the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, located at Plot No. 3-5, TPX Area, Mai Kolachi Road, Karachi, at +92 21 3527 5000. (Calling within Pakistan, dial 021 3527 5000.) This number is available 24 hours a day for emergencies involving U.S. citizens in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. See also https://pk.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/karachi/.
- Contact the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, located at 50 Shahrah-E-Abdul Hameed Bin Badees (Old Empress Road), at +92 42 3603 4000. (Calling within Pakistan, dial 042 3603 4000.) This number is available 24 hours a day for emergencies involving U.S. citizens in the province of Punjab south of the Jehlum River and the district of Bhakkar. See also https://pk.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/lahore/.
- Contact the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, located at 11 Hospital Road, Peshawar Cantonment, at +92 91 526 8800. (Calling within Pakistan, dial 091 526 8800.) This number is available 24 hours a day for emergencies involving U.S. citizens in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). See also https://pk.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/peshawar/.
- Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).