The Taliban-run Afghan Civil Aviation Authority has claimed that Pakistan intends to monopolize the air route between Kabul and Islamabad for the Pakistan Airline Authority, the country’s national airline service. PIA is currently the only airline service flying people out of Afghanistan – the other international flights have been suspended due to the instability in the region.
According to the details, the PIA first flies the Afghan civilians desperate to leave the country to Islamabad and from there they can head to their desired destination. There are no direct flights from Kabul to the rest of the world – there is only this one alternate route that goes through Pakistan. The Afghans leaving their country through this route are confronted with numerous challenges, like extortionate ticket prices.
A ticket on the Islamabad-bound PIA airline once cost around $150 – the prices have now shot up to $2500. This manifold price hike has left countless Afghans helpless who are desperate to leave their country. Mansoor Ahmed Khan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, said that since the Taliban takeover in August, the country has been ridden with instability. The insurance premiums for the airlines have shot up which is why the ticket prices have skyrocketed.
Despite the expensive tickets, hundreds of desperate Afghans flock to the PIA offices in Kabul in order to get their tickets and leave the country. These tickets are also available in the black market where they cost an extra $100.
The Torkham International Border Crossing between the two countries has also imposed numerous restrictions on the crossing. The border administration is asking the Afghan civilians to present their visa documentation in order to cross the border, despite Pakistan’s claim that such documentation will not be required.
The Afghan civilians studying in Pakistani universities are also trapped in their country and cannot return to complete their education. Scores of students protested in front of the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul, asking the authorities to strike off the visa requirement. They said that our examinations are starting but we cannot return.
Many argue that the Pakistani is deliberately imposing such restrictions on desperate Afghans trying to flee from their country. Relative to the air route, the land crossing is inexpensive – it only costs the Afghans $50 to travel to any city in Pakistan. The Pakistani authorities are imposing restrictions on land travel to force the Afghan civilians to buy the ridiculously expensive PIA tickets. “Pakistan is profiteering from the misery of desperate Afghan refugees”, one user said on Twitter.
Following the Taliban takeover, the neighbouring countries closed their border to Afghan civilians fleeing the Taliban. Thousands of Afghans have flocked the western region of the country in order to flee to Iran, but to no avail. The Iranian border has been closed and heavily reinforced, making it impossible for the Afghans to cross to the other side.