Islamabad, October 14: Pakistan can indeed be compared to a chameleon who changes its colour each time it moves to a different direction. Likewise, Pakistan who hailed Taliban and suggested having talks with the new Afghan formed government has now changed its stance on resuming flights to Kabul. Calling it a ‘heavy handed’ interference, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended flights to Kabul including arbitrary rule changes and intimidation of staff.
This comes after the Taliban government issued an order to the airline, which is the only international company that’s operating regularly out of Kabul. It stated to cut ticket prices to levels seen before the fall of the Western-backed Afghan government in Kabul. Earlier, Taliban had warned Pakistan International Airlines and Afghan carrier Kam Air that the Afghan operations were at risk and were been blocked unless they agreed to cut ticket prices.
With most international airlines no longer flying to Afghanistan, tickets for flights to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, have been selling for as much as $2,500 on PIA, according to travel agents in Kabul, compared with $120-$150 before. The Afghan transport ministry said in a statement prices on the route should "be adjusted to correspond with the conditions of a ticket before the victory of the Islamic Emirate" or the flights would be stopped. It urged passengers and others to report any violations.
Flights between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been severely limited since Kabul airport was reopened last month in the wake of the chaotic evacuation of more than 100,000 Westerners and vulnerable Afghans following the Taliban victory. 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 behaviour" from Taliban commanders. It said its country representative had been held at gunpoint for hours at one point and was only freed after the Pakistan embassy in Kabul intervened.
With a mounting economic crisis adding to worries about Afghanistan's future under the Taliban, there has been heavy demand for flights out and the main passport office in Kabul has been besieged by people trying to get travel documents since it reopened this month. Demand for flights has been further pushed by repeated difficulties at land border crossings into Pakistan.