A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane, carrying a handful of foreign journalists, arrived at the Kabul airport on Monday, the first international commercial flight to land in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power last month, Pakistan’s national air carrier said in a statement.
For several weeks after the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15, the United States and its allies engaged in massive evacuation efforts for tens of thousands of officials, diplomats, and civilians looking to flee Afghanistan’s new rulers, fearing reprisals and a reinstatement of their harsh policies similar to their previous rule from 1996 to 2001.
The Taliban took control of Kabul airport on August 31, the deadline for US troops’ withdrawal, with the first international commercial flight under their new interim government departing Afghanistan on Thursday.
It carried more than 100 foreigners, including a few US citizens who had been left behind after last month’s chaotic evacuation measures.
“PIA staff took international journalists to Kabul [from Islamabad] and brought back a team from the World Bank and international news agencies,” Abdullah Hafeez Khan, PIA spokesperson said in a statement.
He added that special arrangements were made by Afghan civil aviation authorities and local PIA staff “for the restoration of flights operations” at Kabul airport.
“The purpose of the [passenger] flight was to promote goodwill between Pakistan and Afghanistan and to strengthen the operation on the basis of humanitarian sympathy,” Khan said.
On Monday, PIA’s Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Mahmood Malik said in a statement that “everyone is looking at us for the restoration of [air] contacts [with Afghanistan],” and he hoped that “soon we will be able to fully restore the flight operations [with Afghanistan].”
PIA launched its special flights to Kabul to help evacuate stranded Pakistani nationals and those associated with foreign embassies and institutions just a day after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital.
However, citing the security situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s government decided to halt the special evacuation flights on August 25 temporarily.
Last week, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, said Islamabad had transited over 9,000 foreign nationals through the country, vowing to continue assistance in evacuation efforts.