ISLAMABAD -  The United Kingdom yesterday relaxed its travel advice for Pakistan amid improving security situation in the country.

A British High Commission statement said the UK had changed its travel advice to reflect the improved security situation in Pakistan.

“Today’s announcement is the result of a comprehensive review of UK travel advice for Pakistan, based on a wide-ranging assessment of the country’s security situation. This is the first major update in the travel advice since 2015,” it said.

Pakistan immediately welcomed the UK decision. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tweeted: “Pakistan, land of peace and progress with incredible natural beauty, warmth & hospitality. This change in travel advice is encouraging, the first major update to the UK’s travel advisory to Pakistan since 2015. This will further strengthen Pak-UK relations. Welcome to Pakistan.”

He gave credit to the armed forces and the whole nation for improving the security situation. “I spoke to my British counterpart on this also. This is a great news. We will soon be out of FATF (Financial Action Task Force) if our case is considered on merit,” he added.

Pakistani forces and the nation sacrificed thousands of lives in the recent past to improve the security situation in the country.

This week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had also urged US President Donald Trump to improve its travel advisory to Pakistan as the ties between the two countries improved.

The BHC statement said: “The improved security situation allowed for the return of British Airways to Pakistan in June 2019 and the visit by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in October 2019.  Among other changes, the advice now allows for travel by road to the North of Pakistan as well as the Kalesh and Bamboret Valleys.”

Dr Christian Turner, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, said: “Following my arrival in December 2019, I made this review of the travel advice a priority. It is great credit to the hard work of the Government of Pakistan in delivering improved security over the past five years. I am delighted that British nationals will be able to see more of what Pakistan has to offer.’’

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides travel advice based on objective information to help British nationals make better-informed decisions about foreign travel.

The new travel advice for Pakistan reduces the section of the Karakoram Highway where the FCO advises against all travel to the area between Mansehra and Chilas alone. The previous travel advice covered the full route from Islamabad to Gilgit. Travellers may bypass this section by taking the alternative route through the Kaghan Valley and Babusar Pass.The FCO no longer advises against all but essential travel to the Kalesh and Bamboret Valleys. The FCO advises against all travel to most of Balochistan including the city of Quetta. This is except for the southern coast of Balochistan, including the city of Gwadar, where the FCO advises against all but essential travel.

Like all FCO travel advice, these changes are based on security assessments, which are kept under constant review. In 2018, there were an estimated 484,000 visits by British nationals to Pakistan. There are 22 weekly direct flights to the UK, the BHC said.

Last October, the British Royal couple, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate Middleton flew to Islamabad on a historic five-day visit to Pakistan to build a lasting friendship.

The royal couple met President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan. Afterwards, the royal couple paid a visit to Lahore on October 16 and Chitral on October 17.

The visit came 13 years after Charles and Camilla – the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwell – toured the country in 2006. Pakistan still vividly remembers the late Princess Diana’s visit in 1996.

The Kensington Palace had described Prince William and Kate Middleton’s visit to Pakistan as their “most complex” tour.

Pakistan had ensured strict security for the royal couple. Back home, the British royal couple was urged by many to postpone the visit amid the growing Pak-India tension. But the couple, in the end, decided to go ahead with the trip.

During their visit, Prince Williams pledged to support Pakistan as a ‘key partner and friend.’ The future King said the UK will continue to support the Commonwealth country as a ‘key partner and friend’ as he aimed to strengthen ties between the two nations.