An Afghanistan-bound Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight carrying over two dozen passengers returned to Islamabad on Monday after Afghan aviation authorities did not allow it to land at Kabul airport.
As many as 27 passengers, including some seven Norwegian citizens who do not hold valid visas for Pakistan, were stranded at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport after flight PK-251 returned to Islamabad.
Passengers later protested at the airport and complained about the “cold shoulder” response of authorities in Islamabad.
“When the scheduled PIA flight reached Kabul at around 2:05pm, it was informed that the runway is closed. The flight was then diverted back to Pakistan,” said PIA spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar. He said the flight waited for a while in a bid to get landing clearance which it was not given by the Afghan aviation authorities.
When asked if the flight would be rescheduled, Tajwar said because of security reasons, PIA does not fly to Afghanistan during the night. However, he expressed hope the flight would be rescheduled for Tuesday (today).
One of the passengers of the flight, Dolat Baig, informed The Express Tribune that PK-251 flew from Islamabad at around 1:10pm and reached its destination but returned to Islamabad, without airplane officials informing them of any reason.
He said no one at the airport was listening to passengers and officers of aviation authorities were not present at their offices.
He said after passengers protested at the airport for three hours, officials informed them that the next scheduled PIA flight for Kabul was on August 4. He added that immigration authorities were reluctant to issue spot visas to the Norwegian citizens, some of whom have children with them, for an indefinite time period.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.