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US & UK suspends visa services in Pakistan

US & UK suspends visa and consular services for security reasons
Islamabad, Sep 26: The US embassy on Thursday suspended its visa and consular services because of security concerns.

"The embassy has suspended routine consular services, including visa services, beginning today (Thursday)," an embassy official said.

The suspension of services, the embassy said, would not affect emergency services for US citizens in Pakistan.

"The embassy will continue to provide emergency services to Americans requiring such assistance."

The official said the suspension of visa and consular services was in response to the security environment in Pakistan.

"There had been an attack on Marriott Hotel, which is of great concern. Therefore, we reviewed the security situation and took the necessary measures," he said.

Two US troops were killed in the massive Marriott hotel bombing.

The embassy has banned US government officials from visiting major hotels and restaurants in Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore because of fears of new attacks.

Officials have also been advised to visit markets and other public places only when there is a compelling need to do so.

The US government personnel were no longer permitted to stay or frequent major hotels in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, and Peshawar, a warden notice issued by the embassy said.

All Americans, the new advisory said, were advised to keep a low profile and take appropriate precautions to ensure their safety.

There were fears that further terrorist attacks might take place in Islamabad, and that markets and restaurants might be among the intended targets, the embassy cautioned.

The British High Commission had stopped accepting visa applications on Wednesday after the closure of visa application centres, run by Gerry International, because of security concerns.

Students intending to proceed to UK and US for studies would suffer the most because of suspension of visa services.

Islamabad's International School, more popularly known as the American School, closed last week after receiving a "specific threat". The school's branches in Lahore and Karachi were also closed.

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Private schools in Pindi announce Eid holidays
Rawalpindi: A number of private schools in Rawalpindi have announced Eid holidays ahead of their usual schedule in view of the prevailing security situation which has created a sense of insecurity not only among students and their parents but also the institutions' managements.

Leading private schools in Rawalpindi suspended their operation on Thursday and announced that schools will reopen during the first week of October after Eid holidays. The decision to close schools earlier than the holidays announced by the government was taken on Wednesday, it has been learnt.

The boosted security at the 'Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Thursday became a cause of concern for many at homes, offices, shopping malls and bazaars. The 'Red Alert' at the Islamabad airport panicked the public and affected normal routine. Due to security situation particularly after the truck bombing of Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Eid shopping has not picked up pace.

Enthusiasm of Eid shopping at stores and malls in Saddar and other localities in the cantonment is not seen despite the fact that the Muslim festival is not very far. Bank Road in Saddar where parking used to be a big problem for shoppers is not full, if not deserted.

A similar situation can also be seen on Kashmir Road or Saddar Bazaar. The public has become more concerned about the security situation and is avoiding busy places.

There are no adequate security arrangements seen around shopping centres. Only traffic wardens are seen controlling traffic at the main intersections of Saddar while the patrolling of police is almost non-existent. Except for guarding important public buildings and offices, no extraordinary arrangements have been taken by the police for the safety and security of the people. Dawn

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