PIA runs its first chartered commercial flight to Afghanistan since Taliban takeover

Published September 13, 2021
This was the first PIA flight to touch down in Kabul after the foreign troop withdrawal. — APP/File
This was the first PIA flight to touch down in Kabul after the foreign troop withdrawal. — APP/File

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Monday ran its first commercial flight to Kabul, Afghanistan, since the Taliban took over the country last month, a spokesman for the airline said.

The Boeing 777 with the flight number PK 6429 departed from Islamabad, Pakistan, as a commercial flight chartered by the World Bank, carrying officials from the bank and journalists, airline spokesman Abdullah H. Khan said.

The aircraft later returned to Islamabad.

This was the first PIA flight to touch down in Kabul after the foreign troop withdrawal and large-scale evacuation of people from Afghanistan ended on August 31.

“It was a special chartered commercial flight,” Khan told Reuters. “We also accommodated other individuals who wanted to leave Afghanistan since we had space on the plane.”

He added that it was a commercial flight that operated through regular airport infrastructure, which had been restored.

"This operation is very important for the PIA and the whole world," PIA's Chief Operating Officer Arshad Malik said in a statement.

“We hope that we will be able to resume a complete operation soon,” he said.

Around 70 people were on the flight to Islamabad, mostly Afghans who were relatives of staffers with international organisations such as the World Bank, according to airport ground staff.

“I am being evacuated. My final destination is Tajikistan,” said a 35-year-old World Bank evacuee, who did not want to give her name. “I will come back here only if the situation allows women to work and move freely.”

A 22-year-old university student said he was taking a one-month trip to Pakistan.

“It's like a vacation. I am sad and happy. Sad about the country, but happy to leave for some time,” he said.

The resumption of commercial flights will be a key test for the Taliban, who have repeatedly promised to allow Afghans with the right documents to leave the country freely.

As passengers prepared to board, airport staff went about their duties, although working under the new regime is marred by fear and confusion for women.

“I don't know if we will be killed or not for working here,” one of two women handling the security scanning machine told AFP.

Qatar Airways ran a chartered flight from Kabul to Doha on September 9 carrying about 113 people.

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