Pakistani plane lands in Kabul on first commercial flight since Taliban takeover

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Islamabad landed in the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday before flying back to the Pakistani capital on the first international commercial flight since the Taliban takeover.

The Pakistani state airline flight from Islamabad with a handful of passengers landed at Kabul airport, which was badly damaged during a chaotic evacuation of more than 120,000 people before the August 31 deadline for the US withdrawal. from Afghanistan.

“There was hardly anyone on the plane, about 10 people … maybe more staff than passengers,” said an AFP journalist aboard the PIA flight from Islamabad.

Hours later, the plane flew back to the Pakistani capital with around 70 people on board, according to airport ground staff.

The passengers on the flight to Islamabad were mostly Afghans, including relatives of employees of international organizations such as the World Bank.

“I am being evacuated. My final destination is Tajikistan,” said a 35-year-old World Bank evacuee, who did not want to give her name.

“I will return here only if the situation allows women to work and move freely.”

A 22-year-old college student said he was going on a month-long trip to Pakistan.

“It’s like a vacation. I’m sad and happy. Sad for the country, but happy to be gone for a while,” he said.

The resumption of commercial flights will be a key test for the Taliban, who have repeatedly vowed to allow Afghans with the proper documents to leave the country freely.

Many NATO nations admitted that they had run out of time to evacuate thousands of Afghans at risk before the Aug. 31 deadline, which was agreed between the United States and the Taliban.

A PIA spokesman said over the weekend that the airline wanted to resume regular commercial services, but it was too early to say how often flights between the two capitals would operate.

Qatar Airways operated several charter flights from Kabul last week, mainly carrying foreigners and Afghans who missed the evacuation.

An Afghan airline resumed domestic services on September 3.

A ‘hopeful day’

“This is a great moment. We are very excited,” said an airport employee, dressed in a blue shalwar kameez and an orange high-visibility vest.

“It’s a hopeful day. Maybe other airlines will see this and decide to come back.”

A bus painted with a “Welcome to Afghanistan” was waiting to transport passengers from the plane to the terminal, but in the end the newcomers walked.

Passenger corridors, airlifts and technical infrastructure were severely damaged in the days after the Taliban arrived in Kabul on August 15, when thousands of people stormed the airport in hopes of fleeing.

Tens of thousands of Afghans fear retaliation for aiding foreign powers during the 20-year US-led occupation, but the Taliban insist they have granted a blanket amnesty to everyone, including the security forces they fought against.

The Taliban impose restrictions on women’s education

While the Taliban have promised a softer form of government this time, the hardline Islamist group has moved quickly to crush dissent, including gunfire to disperse recent protests by women demanding the right to education and education. job.

On Sunday, Taliban higher education minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani presented the new policies at a press conference, several days after Afghanistan’s new rulers formed an all-male government.

The restrictions imposed on female university students include mandatory hijabs, although Haqqani did not specify whether this meant mandatory veiling or mandatory veiling as well.

Gender segregation will also apply, he said. “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” he said. “We will not allow coeducation.”

Haqqani said that the subjects taught will also be reviewed. While he did not elaborate, he said he wanted Afghanistan’s university graduates to be competitive with university graduates in the region and the rest of the world.

In an interview on Afghanistan’s main Tolo News, Taliban spokesman Syed Zekrullah Hashmi said last week that women should give birth and raise children. While the Taliban have not ruled out the eventual participation of women in government, the spokesman said that “it is not necessary for women to be in the cabinet.”

( Jowharwith AFP and AP)

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