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Cut in PIA flights to Chitral criticised

September 14, 2009

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This year, due to the military operation in the Malakand division, the valley remained cut-off from rest of the country even in summer: MNA from Chitral Shahzada Mohiuddin. — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD Member National Assembly (MNA) from Chitral Shahzada Mohiuddin has criticised Pakistan International Airline (PIA) for reducing the number of flights on the Chitral route in complete disregards to the communication problems of the district.

Talking to this correspondent here on Sunday, he said the national flag carrier had recently diverted one of Chitral's flights from Peshawar to Kabul besides giving another on Islamabad-Chitral route to Gilgit-Baltistan.

He said people of Chitral faced immense problems due to the closure of the only land route via the Lowari Pass in winter. This year, due to the military operation in the Malakand division, the valley remained cut-off from rest of the country even in summer. In this situation, the PIA flights become the only way of communication for the people of the area, he added.

Earlier the PIA operated 11 flights a week from Peshawar and daily one flight from Islamabad but now the number of flights from Peshawar has been reduced to six while Sunday's flight from Islamabad has been diverted to Gilgit-Skardu route. Besides, the only one flight on Saturday from Peshawar has been shifted to Peshawar-Kabul route. On the other hand, most of the flights from Peshawar are cancelled on the pretext of inclement weather leading to rush of passengers including women and elderly people at Peshawar, Islamabad and Chitral who cannot travel by road through the Malakand division due to security concerns particularly after four Chitrali passengers were shot dead by Taliban militants in the Bajaur area in July this year.

The MNA said instead of taking political decision on allocation of PIA aircraft for commercial flights, the authorities concerned should take into account the communication problems of Chitral which remains cut off from rest of the country most of the year due to absence of an all-weather route. He said the people of his area had rendered sacrifices for maintenance of peace not only in their own district but also in other parts of the NWFP. In return, they should not be punished by snatching whatever facilities they have been availing for the last many years, he added.

Mr Mohiuddin also called upon the Managing Director of PIA Capt Ejaz Haroon to consider Chitral as a special case and increase the number of flights on the route at least till the completion of the Lowari Tunnel.