Taliban sign pact with UAE on running Afghan airports

Published May 25, 2022
Kabul: Ghulam Jilani Wafa (right), Taliban’s deputy head of civil aviation, exchanges documents with Razack Aslam Mohammed Abdur Razack, an official from the United Arab Emirates, during a press conference on Tuesday.—AFP
Kabul: Ghulam Jilani Wafa (right), Taliban’s deputy head of civil aviation, exchanges documents with Razack Aslam Mohammed Abdur Razack, an official from the United Arab Emirates, during a press conference on Tuesday.—AFP

KABUL: A United Arab Emirates company signed a contract with the Taliban authorities on Tuesday to provide ground handling services at Afghanistan’s three airports, officials said, as the country seeks to resume international transit.

Capital Kabul’s only airport was trashed in August when tens of thousands of people rushed to evacuate as the US-led forces withdrew.

While some domestic and international flights are still operating out of the facility, it needs significant upgrades for major foreign airlines to restart full service. The full operation of Kabul airport is crucial for reviving Afghanistan’s shattered economy.

But no country has yet formally recognised the Taliban government, with nations watching to see how the Islamists — notorious for human rights abuses during their 1996-2001 stint in power — will rule.

UAE firm GAAC, which was previously operating in Afghanistan, signed a new 18-month contract covering three airports: Kabul, Kandahar and Herat.

“The current contract is only for offering ground handling services,” Hameedullah Akhu­ndzada, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation said at a press conference.

GAAC has provided these services at Kabul airport since November 2020, and played a key role in rehabilitating the facility in August. “We are not a new face here,” Ibrahim Morafi, regional director of GAAC, said.

“But GAAC signing the new contract will give confidence to international airlines to resume flights to Afghanistan,” he said, without specifying when such flights — including from the UAE — were expected to resume.

A Qatar-Turkey consortium has been in talks with the aviation ministry for months over operating airports at Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Khost.

But the talks snagged as the Taliban insisted its fighters will guard the facilities.

Qatar and Turkey want a say in managing security, at least at Kabul airport, experts tracking the negotiations say.

On Tuesday, Afghan officials refused to comment on whether the consortium was still open to operating the five airports.

GAAC officials also declined to comment on whether its new ground handling contract would be expanded into other services.

Currently, two Afghan airlines — Kam Air and Ariana Afghan — fly to Dubai, Doha, Islamabad, and Tehran from Kabul airport. Iran’s Mahan Air also operates flights to Kabul.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Miftah’s misery
Updated 06 Jul, 2022

Miftah’s misery

It cannot be easy to be finance minister in times like these, with friend and foe alike gunning for you over difficult decisions.
Phone tapping
06 Jul, 2022

Phone tapping

IT is the season of audio leaks. No sooner does one ‘incriminating’ clip lose its shock value than another...
Transgender job quota
06 Jul, 2022

Transgender job quota

IN a society where transgender persons often face violence and abuse, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to reserve a...
Warming ties
05 Jul, 2022

Warming ties

BILATERAL ties with the US are clearly on the mend after an extensive rough patch under the PTI government. While ...
LNG emergency
Updated 05 Jul, 2022

LNG emergency

The problem is that Pakistan does not have sufficient cash at the moment to buy even a single LNG cargo at present prices.
The invisible half
05 Jul, 2022

The invisible half

WHAT better illustrates the Afghan Taliban’s misogynistic and mediaeval worldview than the fact that not a single...