on Monday 13 September, 2021

Afghanistan: Commercial flights from Pakistan resume

The Pakistan International Airlines flight is the first commercial airline to touch down since the Taliban seized control of Kabul
by : (AFP, Reuters)

Qatar Airways had last week charted civilian flights out of Kabul, but Pakistan International Airlines has now landed the first international commercial flight at the capital's airport since the Taliban takeover.

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight touched down in Kabul on Monday morning.

It's the first inbound international commercial passenger flight to land since the Taliban took control of the capital city.

"There was hardly anyone on the plane, around 10 people ... maybe more staff than passengers," according to an AFP journalist who was on board the PIA flight.

A key test for the Taliban

The resumption of commercial air travel is one of the key challenges facing the Taliban. The militant group has made commitments to allow eligible Afghans to leave the country.

The withdrawal deadline cut the multi-national airlift short, leaving many people with valid paperwork, behind.

That deadline of August 31, was agreed to by the US and the Taliban.

There were desperate scenes at Hamid Karzai International airport as thousand of Afghans tried to flee the capital before the cutoff date.

Airlines look to resume services

Thousands of eligible travelers from Afghanistan missed out on the evacuation flights. It's hoped the resumption of regular air travel from Kabul will help settle the matter.

Speaking over the weekend, a PIA spokesman said the airline wanted to resume normal commercial flights, but could not say how frequently services between Islamabad and Kabul would be.

"This is a great moment for me after a long time since the change of the establishment in Kabul," Jawad Zafar, operational head of PIA, told AFP.

Last week saw a number of chartered flights from Qatar airways, transporting foreigners and Afghans who had missed the evacuation flights.

Ariana Afghan Airlines resumed domestic operations on September 3.
Afghan aid, a key priority

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi touched down in Kabul on Monday morning.

He was welcomed by Khalil-ur-Rahman Haqqani, the Taliban's acting minister of refugees and repatriation.

Grandi is in the country to assess the humanitarian needs. He announced his arrival on Twitter saying: "This morning I have landed in Kabul. During my visit I will assess the country’s acute humanitarian needs and the situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans. I am grateful to all UN, NGO and other humanitarian workers who are working hard on the ground to meet those needs."

There are currently 3.5 million internally displaced Afghans. Food aid has been identified as been in short supply.

The UN will be hosting a donor conference on Monday to raise funds to keep aid programs going.

According to the World Food Programme, 14 million people face food insecurity.