PIA decides to operate direct flights to Iraq, Syria


Suspends Kabul operation as Taliban call for cut in fare
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Arshad Malik has said that the national flag carrier will operate direct flights to Iraq and Syria, with two flights a week planned. Between September 17-24 this year, PIA operated special flights to Baghdad and Najaf in Iraq and Damascus in Syria to facilitate people visiting the two Arab countries for religious pilgrimages. During an August visit to Islamabad of the Iraqi foreign minister, the two countries discussed how Pakistan could facilitate pilgrims to the Arab country. “Our [special] flight operations [to Iraq and Syria] were very successful,” Malik said. “Now PIA administration has decided to operate two weekly flights for Syria, Damascus ,and from 30th October we are going to start flights for Najaf [Iraq].” “Damascus, Baghdad and Najaf would be new routes for PIA.”
The Iraqi and Syrian cities of Najaf, Karbala and Damascus are significant for Shiites around the world, many of whom travel there during the first two months of the lunar Islamic calendar for religious reasons.
Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) suspended flights to the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Thursday after what it called “heavy handed” interference by Taliban authorities, including arbitrary rule changes and intimidation of staff. The suspension came as the Taliban government ordered the airline, the only international company operating regularly out of Kabul, to cut ticket prices to levels seen before the fall of the Western-backed Afghan government in August.
“We are suspending our flight operations to Kabul from today because of the heavy handedness of the authorities,” a spokesman said.
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.