Pakistan suspends flights to Kabul over ‘inappropriate’ Taliban behavior

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Thursday (14/10) suspended flights to the Afghan capital, Kabul, over what the state-owned carrier accused of “cruel” interference by the neighboring country’s ruling Taliban.

The suspension came the same day a statement by the Taliban’s Transport Ministry warned it would halt PIA flight operations between Islamabad and the Afghan capital unless the airline lowered ticket prices to levels in effect before mid-August, when the Taliban took power in the country.

The statement also ordered Afghan airline Kam Air to reduce fares on the Kabul-Islamabad route to previous levels or face a halt in flight operations.

“We have suspended our flights (between Islamabad and Kabul) indefinitely,” PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan told FLY, Thursday (14/10).

“The decision has been taken due to inappropriate behavior (perpetrated) by the local (Taliban) government and inadequate conditions for flight operations,” Khan said.

He explained that PIA flies charter planes out of Kabul for “pure humanitarian reasons,” and it is the only international airline connecting the Afghan capital via Pakistan to the rest of the world.

PIA had operated regular commercial flights between Islamabad and Kabul until the Taliban took over the country last August, and passengers were charged up to $200 for a return ticket. Since most international airlines no longer fly to Afghanistan, PIA’s chartered flight from Kabul now charges $1,500 for a one-way ticket to Islamabad.

PIA officials complain that their staff in Kabul have faced last-minute changes in flight regulations and permits and “extremely intimidating behavior” from Taliban commanders.

PIA alleged that the head of the airline’s Afghanistan branch had been held at gunpoint for hours and was only released after the Pakistani Embassy intervened.

The Taliban office has not commented on the allegations made by the PIA office. (lt/ka)

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