The Bacha Khan International Airport (BKIA) on Sunday slowly made its way back to normalcy as flights were rescheduled and operations resumed after security forces cleared the premises.
Claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, the assault late Saturday sparked prolonged gunfire and forced authorities to close the airport, a commercial hub and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in the metropolitan.
The attack left as many as 15 dead, including a police official, while 48 others were injured when rockets descended upon the BKIA.
A total of 23 domestic and international flights to and from BKIA were suspended at 8:30pm on Saturday, said Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Spokesperson, George Pervez.
The Airport Security Force (ASF) took over the main airport building, securing passengers trapped inside. Accompanied by personnel of the armed forces and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) police, ASF provided shelter to the air force installation and kept the entry and exit gates of the airport shut during the cross fire, he added.
Pervez said flights of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) along with those of other private airlines were diverted to other cities.
“We are here to facilitate people and for that reason, we will never put the lives of citizens in danger. We even cancelled some flights that day,” he said, adding that operations were resumed at BKIA after receiving clearance.
Operations resumed at 1pm on Sunday when PIA Airbus A-310 bearing flight number PK-755 left for Karachi. It returned to Peshawar at 8pm with 34 passengers.
The flight was initially scheduled to leave for Riyadh from Lahore via Peshawar, with 146 more passengers. After the incident, however, the 146 passengers from Peshawar were driven to a local hotel and PK-755 departed for Karachi with only 34 passengers on Sunday.
The passengers moved to the hotel were later informed that their flight was rescheduled to leave for Riyadh at 9:30pm Sunday night.
Airblue’s two flights, from Karachi to Peshawar and Peshawar to Karachi, were also cancelled on Sunday.
Shaheen Airlines flight NL-786 from Peshawar to Dubai left for Dubai at 4:30pm on Sunday, while NL-721 from Jeddah to Peshawar was delayed till 2:30am Monday.
PIA’s flight PK-250 from Kabul to Islamabad via Peshawar left for Islamabad directly, despite its scheduled stay at BKIA till 5:30pm on Sunday.
Meanwhile, PK-283 will leave for Dubai at 10:30pm and PK-219 for Abu Dhabi at 11:30pm Sunday.
(with additional input from afp)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2012.