ISLAMABAD: In another display of hostility towards Pakistan, the Afghan authorities held up a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft for over two and a half hours at Kabul International before allowing it to take off for Islamabad on Monday.
Sources said that all 162 passengers, on board the PIA flight PK 250 were prohibited from leaving the plane while it waited for the green signal.
The national flag carrier, however, issued a statement that said otherwise. It read that the flight was held up due to ‘runway maintenance.’
“Due to obstruction at the start of the runway, full length of the takeoff was not available,” it read.
Due to the shortened runway, the Afghan authorities asked the pilot to offload 15 passengers in weight shedding. The pilot, however, refused as all passengers had already been taken in.
Planes of all other airlines were taking off using the same runway at the same time.
After multiple discussions through diplomatic channels that took two hours, the air traffic control (ATC) finally allowed takeoff from the other end of the runway.
After taking off at 2:35pm, the flight safely landed at 3:30 pm at the Islamabad airport.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have been at loggerheads with each other recently. Both sides have been accusing the other for harassing their diplomatic staff. Islamabad has spoken against Kabul over harassment of its diplomats posted in Afghanistan by the Afghan intelligence agencies. Afghanistan has its own set of grievances against Pakistan.
Last month, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood held talks with the Afghan intelligence chief, national security adviser and acting foreign minister to discuss the recent fallout in the relationship between the two countries.
Observers say that a good relationship between Islamabad and Kabul is important for any Afghan peace deal.