RAWALPINDI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has operated seven special flights and repatriated as many as 1,460 people, most of them foreigners, stranded in Afghanistan since the Taliban gained control of Kabul in the middle of August.
However, more flights were not operated due to a lack of “permission” despite the fact that three planes and staff were ready to fly after the European Union and Asian Development Bank had sought help from PIA to evacuate their employees from Afghanistan.
A spokesman for PIA said the national flag carrier operated seven special flights and repatriated 1,460 passengers, including Pakistanis and foreigners, as Boeing 777 and Airbus A320 aircraft were used for the operation.
Owing to the restriction on Afghan nationals from leaving the country by the Taliban, PIA did not operate special flights, as the airline could not take responsibility of bringing the Afghan travellers to the airport.
The authorities concerned did not reply when asked to ensure the presence of intending passengers at the airport, therefore, PIA did not operate more special flights to Kabul and secondly the Kabul airport’s runway was not clear, but dirty, he added.
Since the Taliban have announced amnesty for Afghans, they do not want citizens to leave the country amid growing demand for early evacuation of foreigners.
The EU and ADB had sought help from PIA to evacuate their people from Afghanistan. The PIA CEO and Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan were requested to make available a special aircraft for evacuation of the EU delegates and their dependents from Kabul on humanitarian grounds.
While PIA planned to run three special flights to Kabul on Monday following these demands, the plans were shelved for want of “permission”.
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021