Kabul: A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane carrying a handful of passengers touched down at Kabul airport Monday, the first international commercial flight to land since the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan on August 15.
“There was hardly anyone on the plane, around 10 people… maybe more staff than passengers,” said an AFP journalist aboard the flight from Islamabad.
A PIA spokesman said at the weekend that the airline was keen to resume regular commercial services, but it was too soon to say how frequently flights between the two capitals would operate.
Kabul airport was severely damaged during a chaotic evacuation of more than 120,000 people that ended with the withdrawal of US forces on August 30. The Taliban have been scrambling to get it operating again with technical assistance from Qatar and other nations.
Qatar Airways operated several charter flights out of Kabul last week, carrying mostly foreigners and Afghans who missed out on the evacuation.
The minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, said the new Taliban government, named last week, would “start building the country on what exists today” and did not want to turn the clock back 20 years to when the movement was last in power.
He said female students would be taught by women wherever possible and classrooms would remain separated, in accordance with the movement’s interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
“Thanks to God we have a high number of women teachers. We will not face any problems in this. All efforts will be made to find and provide women teachers for female students,” he told a news conference in Kabul.
Qatar is considered one of the countries with the most influence over the Taliban and played a pivotal role in the massive U.S.-led airlift of its own citizens, other Western nationals and Afghans who helped Western countries.
The Qatari capital Doha was also the home of the Taliban’s political office which oversaw the negotiations with the United States that eventually led to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.