RAWALPINDI: Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said direct flights between Azerbaijan and Pakistan would be started soon.

He stated this during a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Ambassador Ali Alizada in Islamabad on Monday.

A press release issued by the Aviation Division said direct air link between Azerbaijan and Pakistan was scheduled to be launched soon. The minister said Pakistan and Azerbaijan were brotherly countries and their relations were warm and cordial based on trust and respect.

The ambassador said Azerbaijan was keen to enhance ties with Pakistan.

Interestingly, a draft air services agreement between the two countries was agreed in 1993. Even on Sept 30, 2009, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was agreed upon between Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

As per the MoU, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) could have seven weekly frequencies with any type of aircraft with a restriction of 1,500 seats per week in each direction and the same for Azal, Silk Way West (Azerbaijan).

At present, there is no air link between the two countries. Due to paucity of traffic no airline from either state is operating. In order to establish an air link Turkish Airlines was allowed to operate flights from Istanbul to Lahore/Islamabad through Baku. However, Turkish Airlines is facing low yield.

Another noticeable aspect of the emerging cooperation in aviation sector is the rising number of Pakistani tourists visiting Azerbaijan. Recent years have witnessed a growing number of Pakistanis

visiting Azerbaijan for business and leisure purposes.

The press release said Baku had now become “New Dubai” for Pakistanis. This trendy city is quite affordable in terms of both living and travel-related costs, and offers a sense of safety which Pakistanis find lacking in many countries, particularly in the West.

In 2018, the number of Pakistani tourists visiting Azerbaijan was about 25,000. In 2017, the exact number of Pakistani tourists entering Azerbaijan was 17,556 and only 3,800 in 2016.

In Jan 2017, the Azerbaijani government created tourist visas to be accessible

online which instantly became popular in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2019