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Pak airline suspends flights from Kabul, cites Taliban’s ‘heavy-handedness’

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Islamabad: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Thursday announced its decision to suspend flights from Kabul, citing “heavy handed” interference of Taliban authorities, including arbitrary rule changes and intimidation of staff.

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The statement comes at a time when the Taliban government ordered the airline, the only international company operating regularly out of Kabul, to cut ticket prices to the levels from before the fall of the Western-backed government in August.

“We are suspending our flight operations to Kabul from today because of the heavy handedness of the authorities,” a PIA spokesman said.

Reports suggest that Taliban officials used derogatory language towards the airline staff and also manhandled a staff member. PIA spokesperson has said the flights to and from Kabul will remain suspended until “the situation becomes conducive”, reported AFP.

The Pakistani carrier has been facing criticism for charging an exorbitant amount, as much as $1,200 for a one-way flight from Kabul to Islamabad. The airline has defended the ticket prices saying the operation was “not very lucrative financially” and it was only operating flights on “humanitarian grounds”.

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PIA was the only international commercial airline operating on a regular basis out of Kabul. The airline had initially said that it would only operate chartered flights following requests from some international institutions and missions.

“Honestly, there will be some way for the evacuees to fly back before regular flights are resumed. At best, ours would be charter operations, operating on behest of certain customers demands who want to get their people out of Kabul,” ANI had quoted PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan as saying.

Days after PIA’s denial of resuming commercial flights to Kabul, the airline landed the first commercial international flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport since the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan.

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