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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Afghanistan: Pakistan airline stops flights citing Taliban intimidation


Pakistan International Airlines has suspended flights to the Afghan capital Kabul, citing “heavy-handed” interference from the Taliban.

The decision came after the Taliban ordered the airline to reduce prices to levels seen before the Western-backed government fell in August.

The only foreign carrier operating regular flights out of Kabul has been PIA.

Tickets to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, were selling for up to ten times the August price.

According to Reuters, the Taliban government’s Transport Ministry stated that tickets should be “adjusted to correspond with the conditions of a ticket prior to the victory of the Islamic Emirate,” i.e. $120-150 (£87-110).

It urged passengers to report any violations of the order, which also targeted Afghan airline Kam Air.

Flights could be banned if the airlines did not comply, it added.

But PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan said the company had to deal with last-minute changes by officials to regulations and flight permissions.

Its staff were also facing intimidation, with its representative held at gunpoint for several hours, Mr Khan added.

Services between the two countries have been severely limited since international flights resumed last month following the departure of US troops at the end of August.

Mr Khan stated that insurance premiums were so high that scheduled flights were impossible to operate, and that the airline’s decision to resume charter flights on September 13 was made on humanitarian grounds.

Due to a severe lack of seats, one-way tickets have been selling for as much as $1,200.

Some passengers, however, have expressed dissatisfaction with PIA’s decision.

“These flights are desperately needed. The borders are closed, and if the airport is closed, it’s as if we’re all trapped in a cage “Abdullah, a pharmaceutical company employee, told Reuters.

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