Planned repatriation flights postponed as commercial flight operations banned at Kabul airport
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority on Sunday announced that “special permission” had been granted to citizens wishing to return from Afghanistan to not have to provide a negative PCR test for coronavirus prior to the commencement of travel.
“As informed by our mission in Kabul, the current situation in Afghanistan has necessitated imminent repatriation of Pakistani nationals residing in Afghanistan,” read the statement, adding that due to the limited time available amidst the rapidly evolving situation, Pakistani travelers would be allowed to enter the country without having to secure a negative PCR test that was conducted no earlier than 72 hours prior to commencement of travel.
It said the revised rule would remain in effect for all direct flights between Kabul and Islamabad prior to Aug. 19. “This approval, however, is subject to strict compliance with other provisions of standard operating procedures in-vogue relating to inbound travel to Pakistan, including Rapid Antigen testing, PCR Testing and any other stipulations as mandated by the relevant health authorities upon arrival in Pakistan,” it added.
There has been a sharp increase in people seeking an exit from Afghanistan as the Taliban assume full control of the country following the resignation and exit of former president Ashraf Ghani. Despite the Taliban announcing a general amnesty, fears persist that the group would target government employees, journalists and former soldiers for retaliation once it has fully secured its control over Afghanistan.
The PIA had announced special flights between Kabul and Islamabad from Aug. 16-18 to facilitate Pakistanis stranded in Afghanistan, but this plan was scuttled after all commercial flight operations at the Kabul airport were suspended without any indication on when they would be restored. Afghan authorities have announced that only military aircraft would be allowed to operate at the airport.
In a statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Office urged Afghan leaders to work together to address the evolving situation in their country and work toward sustainable peace and stability. “Pakistan will continue to play its constructive role in promoting this goal,” it added.