WASHINGTON: The US State Department has revised its travel advisory for Pakistan, upgrading it from “no travel” to “avoid unnecessary travels”.

The revision — from level four to level three — although not a major change, is still a notable improvement.

“Pakistan’s security environment has improved since 2014 when Pakistani security forces undertook concerted counter terrorist and counter militant operations,” the latest travel advisory noted.

“There are greater security resources and infrastructure in major cities, particularly Islamabad, and security forces in these areas may be more readily able to respond to an emergency compared to other areas of the country.”

Foreign Office welcomes Washington’s decision to revise its travel advisory

The advisory pointed out that “while threats still exist, terrorist attacks are rare in Islamabad”.

The notification, however, urged US citizens to “reconsider travel to Pakistan due to terrorism and sectarian violence” and suggested additional caution due to Covid-19, as “some areas have increased risk”.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Level 2 Travel Health Notice for Pakistan, indicating a moderate level of Covid-19 in the country.

“Your risk of contracting Covid-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with a US-authorised vaccine,” it added.

The State Department still urged US citizens not to travel to Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, due to terrorism and kidnapping. It also advised against travelling to the immediate vicinity of the Line of Control due to terrorism and the potential for armed conflict.

The change in US advisory followed a visit to the United States by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Faiz Hameed, although the development may or may not be related to the visit.

Their talks focused on Afghanistan, with US officials seeking Pakistan’s cooperation in preventing a Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Pakistan assured Washington that it opposed a forcible takeover and urged both the Taliban and the Afghan government not to seek a military victory.

US officials, in briefings to the media and in speeches at think tanks, have made it clear that Washington will not accept a Taliban takeover and persuade other nations as well not to recognise such a government.

In his talks in Washington, Mr Yusuf urged US officials to “focus on the present and the immediate future, instead of complaining about the past”.

Pakistan, he said, had done more than any other country. “More than 80,000 Pakistanis were killed, the war cost us $150 billion. So, let’s talk about how we can work together now to find a political settlement in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan welcomes decision

Spokesperson for the Foreign Office on Saturday welcomed the US decision to revise its travel advisory for Pakistan, APP added.

On his Twitter handle, FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the revised travel advisory showed the United States acknowledged the improved security environment in Pakistan and effective handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We welcome the recent revision of travel advisory by the US which has upgraded Pakistan to Level-3. The upward revision is an acknowledgement of the improved security environment in Pakistan and effective handling of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said in his tweet.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2021

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