Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will resume commercial flights next week from Islamabad to Kabul, a spokesperson confirmed, becoming the first foreign country to start flight operations since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month.
“We are scheduling our flights operations and initially requested the permission of three flights. We have received requests from aid agencies and journalists and services will be provided on demand basis,” Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesperson for the PIA, said.
A PIA official in Islamabad dealing with the Kabul flight operations said: “From Monday we are resuming normal flight operations to Kabul, that is five flights per week.”
The Taliban welcomed the resumption of flights from Pakistan. “We welcome and appreciate this move from Pakistan and urge the international community to help rebuild Afghanistan,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
Kabul airport has yet to receive its first international flight since the Taliban came to power.
The Taliban have sought Qatari technical assistance to resume airport operations at Hamid Karzai airport, which was badly damaged during the hasty evacuation of more than 120,000 people when the American troops withdrew on 30 August. Qatari officials said the Kabul airport was 90% ready for operations.
Pakistan has donated food and medicine to Afghanistan, with a Pakistan Air Force C-130 carrying relief goods and medicines.
Analysts welcomed the development. “Resumption of PIA flights is a good move for connectivity with the landlocked Afghanistan and the move reflects [that] life is getting back to normal and services are being provided to the Afghans and the international community should come forward to help Afghanistan,” Talat Masood, a retired general, said.
For the past two days Qatar Airways has operated two chartered flights from Kabul to Doha carrying foreigners and local Afghans who were missed during the American evacuation. Domestic flights by an Afghan airline resumed last week.
“While the resumption of PIA flights between Islamabad and Kabul will help Pashtuns on both sides of the border to meet their relatives and business partners, the flight operation will also minimise the crowd at the land border crossings with Pakistan,” Osama Malik, a refugee law expert in Islamabad, said.
“It is also hoped that Afghanistan’s Hazara community, which has been persecuted by the Taliban and also attacked in Pakistan, will be able to use these flights to reach safe countries in the west by transiting via Islamabad,” he added.