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PIA Runs Chartered Commercial Flight To Afghanistan

Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight, the first commercial international flight since the Taliban retook power last month, at the airport in Kabul on September 13.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has run its first commercial flight to and from Kabul since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in mid-August.

The Boeing 777 departed the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as a commercial flight chartered by the World Bank, carrying officials from the bank and journalists, airline spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan said on September 13.

The aircraft carried around 10 people, according to an AFP journalist aboard.

“First commercial flight lands after Qatar runs chartered flights to Kabul,” a journalist with Qatar-based Al Jazeera wrote on Twitter, posting photos of the PIA plane on the Kabul airport’s tarmac.

The Boeing later took off from Kabul airport, bound for Islamabad, with around 70 people on board, mostly Afghans who were relatives of staffers with international organizations, airport ground staff were quoted as saying.

A chartered flight by a Qatar Airways jet that carried 200 people from Kabul on September 9 was the first passenger plane to fly out of Kabul airport since the Taliban took over the facility following the departure of the last U.S. troops there on August 30.

The airport was severely damaged during the chaotic evacuation of more than 120,000 people that ended with the U.S. military withdrawal following a 20-year presence.

The resumption of commercial flights will be a key test for the hard-line Islamist group, which has vowed to allow Afghans with proper documents to leave the war-torn country freely.

Khan said that PIA charter flights would be operating on an as-needed basis and that the next one was scheduled for September 15.

The airline was hopeful to resume regular commercial flight operations to Kabul soon, the spokesman said.

PIA had been one of the only services which operated in the immediate aftermath of the Taliban's toppling of the Western-backed government in Kabul on August 15.

PIA officials say at least 1,460 people of different nationalities were evacuated by the airline from August 15 to August 22.

But on August 22 it "temporarily suspended" flights between Kabul and Islamabad due to a lack of facilities and "heaps of garbage" on the airstrip that if feared could lead to an accident.

PIA had been operating five weekly flights to Kabul before the Taliban seized power.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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