Pakistan Airlines suspends its operations in Kabul following Taliban 'threat' and 'intimidation'

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the only foreign airline operating in Afghanistan, has suspended its operations in Kabul on Thursday, citing "heavy-handed" interference by Taliban commanders, including threats and intimidation to its staff

Oct 14, 2021
Image
Pakistan Airlines

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the only foreign airline operating in Afghanistan, has suspended its operations in Kabul on Thursday, citing "heavy-handed" interference by Taliban commanders, including threats and intimidation to its staff. Significantly, this came after the Taliban’s aviation ministry ordered the PIA and Kam Air, Afghanistan’s privately owned airline, to cut their ticket prices to pre-15 August level. 

"We are suspending our flight operations to Kabul from today because of the heavy-handedness of the authorities," the PIA said in a statement. Prices of tickets skyrocketed to as much as $2500 from earlier $150 following the Taliban takeover in the country. Other international airlines refused to operate in the country, citing security situations. 

PIA also alleged that its country representative (in Afghanistan) had been held at gunpoint for hours at one point by Taliban commanders and was only freed after the intervention from the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul. Commanders alleged the PIA representative of “abetting people to leave the country.”

Earlier, the Taliban warned PIA and Afghan carrier Kam Air that their Afghan operations risked being blocked unless they agreed to cut ticket prices, which have reached levels increasingly out of reach for most Afghans.

The Afghan transport ministry said in a statement that prices on the route should "be adjusted to correspond with the conditions of a ticket before the victory of the Islamic Emirate [Taliban]" or the flights would be stopped.

Canceling its operations, the PIA said that ever since the new Taliban government was formed, its staff in Kabul had faced last-minute changes in regulations and flight permissions and "highly intimidating behavior" from Taliban commanders, according to media reports.

The Taliban’s action came after several Afghans accused the Pakistani airline of milking the tragedy by charging exorbitant prices. However, media reports claimed the price soared after the insurance cost, included in the ticket price, soared after the country fell into the hands of the Taliban. 

(SAM)