Pakistan temporarily suspends special flight operation to Kabul over security concerns

Statesman Report

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government on Saturday temporarily suspended its special flight operation to Afghanistan that was launched to evacuate its nationals, foreign diplomats and officials of various international institutions, citing security concerns at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

The government started a special Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight operation to the neighboring country soon after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on August 15 to help evacuate stranded people of various nationalities.

US and NATO troops took the charge of the airport where thousands of desperate Afghans and other foreign nationals congregated as the Taliban insurgents started rolling into Kabul. Officials in Pakistan say the Hamid Karzai airport has become the site of chaos in recent days where at least a dozen people have been killed and overrun to restore a modicum of calm and public order.

“We have been flying from the Kabul airport by taking permission from the NATO [troops deployed over there], but the issue is that the NATO forces won’t be there after a couple of days and it’s not clear what will happen then,” Abdullah Hafeez Khan, a PIA spokesperson, told Arab News.

The PIA operated five special flights to Kabul since the fall of the city and evacuated some 1,600 people trapped over there. These individuals included several Pakistanis, foreign nationals associated with relief agencies, journalists and diplomats.

The PIA chief executive officer Arshad Malik visited the Kabul airport on Friday to review the security situation and hold meetings with top NATO officials. He also discussed the situation with senior Pakistani government functionaries on Saturday in a meeting to decide the future of PIA operations to Afghanistan.

“We have halted our today’s operation, though a proper decision in this regard is expected later today after a high-level consultation with the government,” the PIA spokesperson said.