The US on Monday cautioned its citizens from travelling to Pakistan, noting that the presence of al Qaeda, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential threat to Americans throughout the country.
Terrorists and their sympathisers regularly attack civilian, government, and foreign targets, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the State Department said in travel bulletin.
Observing that the Pakistan government has heightened security measures, particularly in major cities, the report said threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where US citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events.
"Terrorists have disguised themselves as Pakistani security personnel to gain access to targeted areas. Some media reports have recently falsely identified US diplomats – and to a lesser extent US and other Western journalists and workers for non-governmental organisations (NGOs)– as being intelligence operatives or private security personnel," the State Department said.
Visits by US government personnel to Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore are limited, and movements by US government personnel assigned to the Consulates General in those cities are severely restricted, it reported.
"US officials in Islamabad are instructed to restrict the frequency and to minimise the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays," the report said.
The State Department said access to many areas of Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border and the area adjacent to the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, is restricted by local government authorities for non-Pakistanis.
Travel to any restricted region requires official permission from the Government of Pakistan.
Failure to obtain such permission in advance can result in arrest and detention by Pakistani authorities, it said.
Due to security concerns the US government currently allows only essential travel within the FATA by US officials. Travel to much of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Balochistan is also restricted, it said.
The State Department said US citizens throughout Pakistan have been arrested, deported, harassed, and detained for overstaying their Pakistani visas or for traveling to Pakistan with the inappropriate visa classification.
"US citizens who attempt to renew or extend their visas while in Pakistan have been left without legal status for an extended period of time and subjected to harassment or interrogation by local authorities.
"In 2011, the number of US citizens arrested, detained, and prosecuted for visa overstay increased markedly across the country," it said.