RAWALPINDI: A Pakistan International Airlines’ flight from Jeddah to Islamabad, carrying Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz back from their visit to Saudi Arabia, was diverted to Lahore airport on Monday, the airline’s spokesperson confirmed to Dawn on Tuesday.

Sources said PK842, which was supposed to land in Islamabad at 10:30pm on Monday night, was diverted to Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore and landed there at 9:25pm.

Sources said that the PM, CM and other VIPs were disembarked at Lahore, which caused inconvenience to hundreds of other Islamabad-bound passengers.

Official sources said the commercial flight from Jeddah to Islamabad was carrying 393 passengers, which included the official Pakistani delegation returning from Saudi Arabia, which included the PM, Punjab CM, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and others, along with their family members.

Videos circulating on social media showed passengers expressing their anger, but they had no other option but to wait until the VIPs disembarked before continuing their journey to Islamabad.

After offloading about 79 passengers, the flight eventually took off for Islamabad and landed at the Islamabad International Airport at 11:17pm.

When asked whether this was special treatment, the PIA spokesperson said “VIPs were treated like commercial passengers”.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2024

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