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Pakistani airline suspends Afghanistan flights due to Taliban ‘heavy-handedness’

By Sophia Saifi, CNN

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced Thursday that it was suspending flights to Afghanistan due to what it described as unworkable conditions imposed by the Taliban.

The airline said conditions had worsened since the Taliban formed a new Afghan government last month and that “PIA and its staff position in Kabul were dealt with very heavy-handedly by the new [Taliban] commanders.” PIA said commanders had been “changing regulations and flight permissions at the last moments or deciding at a whim rather than meeting international regulations.”

The statement also claimed that PIA’s country representative was “held up at gun point for hours when he left the Pakistan embassy compound” on the Taliban’s “suspicion of aiding and abetting” people seeking to flee Afghanistan.

PIA also accused Afghanistan’s aviation ministry of slashing half the number of passengers from one flight this week that was already in the process of checking in. “This resulted in 176 people, fleeing for their lives, being sent back home by the airline officials, causing nearly half a million-dollar loss to the airline due to higher insurance costs,” the airline said.

PIA resumed some charter flights into Kabul on September 13, almost a month after the Taliban swept into the capital and seized control of Afghanistan.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan told CNN on Thursday that the decision to resume flying into Kabul “was taken on purely humanitarian grounds, and on the strong insistence of friendly organizations.”

Khan said the insurance premium on these flights is “so high” that it is “simply impossible to operate scheduled flights to Kabul, as it is still considered a war zone by aircraft insurance companies.”

Khan also said that “it is very frustrating that the regulations keep on changing for each flight and the authorities always confuse charter permissions with schedule permissions.”

Khan said PIA would reevaluate its decision to suspend flights “if the situation on ground improves and [becomes] more conducive for international operations.”

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