Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended flights to Kabul after what it termed as ‘heavy handed’ interference by Taliban authorities, including arbitrary rule changes and intimidation of staff.
“We are suspending our flight operations to Kabul from today because of the heavy handedness of the authorities,” a spokesman said.
The suspension came after the Taliban government ordered the airline to cut ticket prices.
Earlier, the Taliban warned PIA and Afghan carrier Kam Air that their Afghan operations risked being blocked unless they agreed to cut ticket prices.
The Afghan transport ministry, in a statement said that the 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.
Flights between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been severely limited since Kabul airport was reopened last month. This is because of the chaotic evacuation of more than 100,000 Westerners and vulnerable Afghans following the Taliban victory.
PIA runs chartered flights to Kabul rather than regular commercial services. It said that it had maintained the flights on “humanitarian grounds” and faced insurance premiums of as much as $400,000 per flight.
“The insurance premiums on these flights are 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 and lessors,” the company said in a statement.
No comment was immediately available from Kam Air.
PIA also 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 further said that its country representative had been held at gunpoint for hours at one point and was only freed after the Pakistan embassy in Kabul intervened.