x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Embassies issue travel warnings

The embassies of several countries are continuing to warn citizens against non-essential travel to and within Pakistan.

ABU DHABI // The embassies of several countries are continuing to warn citizens against non-essential travel to and within Pakistan. Many already had such warnings in place amid numerous incidents of deadly sectarian violence in recent months. Following Tuesday's attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore, the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi recommended visitors take the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, which said visitors should consider whether their trip to Pakistan was truly necessary. It cautioned against all non-essential travel to Lahore and Rawalpindi.

The office's website read: "We continue to advise against all but essential travel to Lahore at this time. "There is a high threat from terrorism and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan. Attacks could be indiscriminate including at places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers." The US state department last week updated its warnings about travel to Pakistan, but, as of last night, had not altered its recommendations following the attack on the cricketers.

The state department's website said: "The presence of al Qa'eda, Taliban elements and indigenous sectarian groups poses a potential danger to American citizens, especially in the western border regions of Pakistan. "Continuing tensions in the Middle East also increase the possibility of violence against westerners in Pakistan. "Terrorists and their sympathisers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack targets where Americans are known to congregate or visit, such as hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events."

Australia's department of foreign affairs and trade, which had already closed its consulate in Lahore, continued to "strongly advise" against travel to Pakistan "due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, sectarian violence and the unpredictable security situation". The department of foreign affairs and international trade Canada had already recommended all Canadians in Pakistan should leave and those with trips planned should consider not travelling there.

Officials at the Sri Lankan Embassy said they were awaiting formal confirmation from Colombo before issuing new travel advice for nationals travelling to Pakistan. But the visa section of the Pakistani Embassy in Abu Dhabi was officially advising people yesterday that travel to Lahore and Pakistan in general was safe. "There is no problem, it is OK for anyone to go," a spokesman said. "The situation this morning has finished, and Lahore is a very safe place. We do not know how this happened."

Etihad Airways said its daily service from Abu Dhabi to Lahore would continue as normal. rhughes@thenational.ae