Pakistani planes land in Kabul on the first commercial flight since the Taliban takeover

Pakistani planes land in Kabul on the first commercial flight since the Taliban takeover

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A commercial flight of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from Islamabad, the first international commercial flight since the takeover of the Taliban, hit the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday.

The Pakistani state airline flight from Islamabad with a handful of passengers landed at Kabul airport, which was severely damaged during a chaotic evacuation of more than 120,000 people ahead of the August 31 deadline for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“There was almost no one on the plane, about 10 people … maybe more staff than passengers,” said an AFP journalist aboard the PIA flight from Islamabad.

Resumption of commercial flights will be a key test for the Taliban, which has repeatedly promised to allow Afghans with the right documents to leave the country freely.

Many NATO nations admitted that they had run out of time to evacuate thousands of vulnerable Afghans by the August 31 deadline agreed between the United States and the Taliban.

A PIA spokesman said at the weekend that the airline was eager to resume regular commercial services, but it was too early to say how often flights between the two capitals would run.

Qatar Airways operated several charter flights out of Kabul last week and had mainly foreigners and Afghans missing the evacuation.

An Afghan airline resumed domestic services on September 3.

A ‘hopeful day’

“This is a great moment. We are very excited,” said an airport employee, dressed in a blue shalwar kameez and orange vest with high visibility.

“It’s a hopeful day. Maybe other airlines will see this and decide to return.”

A bus painted with a “Welcome to Afghanistan” was waiting to ferry the passengers from the plane to the terminal, but eventually the new arrivals left.

About 100 passengers were waiting to take the return flight to Islamabad, mostly relatives of employees of international organizations such as the World Bank, according to airport staff.

Passenger halls, airlifts and technical infrastructure were badly damaged in the days after the Taliban rolled into Kabul on August 15, when thousands of people stormed the airport in hopes of escaping.

Tens of thousands of Afghans fear reprisals to help foreign powers during the 20-year US-led occupation, but the Taliban insist they have granted a general amnesty to all — including the security forces they fought.

The Taliban issues education restrictions for women

While the Taliban has promised a milder form of rule this time around, the hardline Islamist group has quickly moved to crush disagreements, including firing into the air to dispel recent protests by women calling for the right to education and work.

On Sunday, the Taliban’s higher education minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, presented the new policy at a news conference several days after Afghanistan’s new rulers formed a completely male government.

Restrictions for female college students include mandatory hijabs, although Haqqani did not indicate whether this meant mandatory headscarf or also mandatory face clothing.

Gender segregation will also be enforced, he said. “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” he said. “We do not allow co-education.”

Haqqani said the topics taught would also be reviewed. Although he did not elaborate, he said he wanted graduates from Afghan universities to be competitive with university graduates in the region and the rest of the world.

In an interview with Afghanistan’s leading Tolo News, Taliban spokesman Syed Zekrullah Hashmi said last week that women should give birth and raise children. Although the Taliban has not ruled out any possible participation of women in government, the spokesman said “it is not necessary for women to be in the cabinet.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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