‘Security at Pakistani airports worrying’
A local travel operator has expressed concerns about the security situation at airports in Pakistan after the latest incident on Tuesday when gunmen opened fire at a plane arriving in Peshawar, killing one passenger and injuring three crew members.
The leading Riyadh-based operator, who did not want to be named, said this was the third incident involving violence at Pakistani airports this month.
He said extremists stormed Pakistan’s biggest airport, Jinnah International Airport, in the commercial capital Karachi on June 8 in a commando-style attack.
The other incident on June 23 saw a passenger plane carrying an anti-government preacher, Tahirul Qadri, diverted at the last minute from Islamabad to Lahore following violent clashes on the ground between his supporters and police.
Gulf airlines have confirmed that they suspended flights to Peshawar following the latest incident.
Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways suspended their operations to and from Bacha Khan International Airport on Wednesday. They were closely monitoring the security situation on Thursday.
Speaking to Arab News on Thursday, a Qatar Airways official in Riyadh, who requested anonymity, said: “Yes, flights from Riyadh to Peshawar are suspended. However, the situation is being reviewed and flights will resume if and when the situation improves.”
He declined to answer further questions and referred Arab News to the airline’s Doha office. The newspaper could not get comment from the Doha office at the time of going to press.
Emirates had already confirmed on its website that it suspended services to Peshawar. “Flights have been suspended from June 25 until further notice due to the security situation at the Peshawar airport.
The passengers booked to travel between June 25 and 27 can cancel their bookings, re-book to travel at a later date, or fly to another Emirates destination in Pakistan,” the Dubai-based airline stated.
Emirates operates five weekly flights to Peshawar, and has a schedule of 66 weekly flights to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s civil aviation authority said that although flights were suspended after the Peshawar incident, domestic flights resumed Wednesday. Pakistan’s security agencies have arrested hundreds of suspects after the incident.
A Pakistan International Airline official was quoted by a section of the media as saying the gunmen had aimed specifically at the fuel tank because they wanted to blow up the aircraft. “It would have been a disaster had they been successful,” he said.