Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Monday operated first commercial “chartered” flight to Kabul since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month, airline spokesman Abdullah Khan said.
The Boeing 777 with the flight number PK 6429 departed from Islamabad as a commercial flight chartered by the World Bank, carrying officials from the bank and journalists, the spokesman added.
The aircraft later returned to Islamabad.
This was the first PIA flight to touch down in Kabul after the foreign troop withdrawal and large-scale evacuation of people from Afghanistan ended on August 31.
“It was a special chartered commercial flight,” Abdullah told news agency Reuters.
“We also accommodated other individuals who wanted to leave Afghanistan since we had space on the plane.”
This operation is very important for the PIA and the whole world, PIA’s Chief Operating Officer Arshad Malik said in a statement.
“We hope that we will be able to resume a complete operation soon,” he said.
Around 70 people were on the flight to Islamabad, mostly Afghans who were relatives of staffers with international organisations such as the World Bank, according to airport ground staff.
“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 come back here only if the situation allows women to work and move freely.”
A 22-year-old university student said he was taking a one-month trip to Pakistan.
“It’s like a vacation. I am sad and happy. Sad about the country, but happy to leave for some time,” he said.
The resumption of commercial flights will be a key test for the Taliban, who have repeatedly promised to allow Afghans with the right documents to leave the country freely.
As passengers prepared to board, airport staff went about their duties, although working under the new regime is marred by fear and confusion for women.
“I don’t know if we will be killed or not for working here,” one of two women handling the security scanning machine told news agency AFP.
Qatar Airways ran a chartered flight from Kabul on September 9 carrying 113 people.