Afghanistan threatens to impose reciprocal restrictions on PIA

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Afghanistan threatens to impose reciprocal restrictions on PIA

The aviation authorities in Afghanistan on Monday blamed Pakistan for unilaterally and arbitrarily cutting up to 80% flights of an Afghan airliner shuttling passengers between the two neighbors.

According to the Afghanistan Aviation Authority, Islamabad has cut the Kam Air flights from Islamabad to Kabul by 80%, citing the coronavirus pandemic. Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the aviation body, stated that if talks with Pakistan failed to address the issue, Kabul would reciprocate the move and impose similar restrictions on Pakistan's national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

"The PIA is conducting five flights a week from Islamabad to Kabul, but the flights of Kam Air have been dropped from five per week to only one in clear violation of the bilateral agreement in this regard," he said, adding if COVID-19 is the reason, why not limit the PIA flights as well.

This comes amid an evident surge in flights from Pakistan to Afghanistan, carrying thousands of Pakistani migrants wishing to fly onward to the Gulf countries.

Afghanistan on Monday recorded 1,566 coronavirus infections and 30 deaths – its highest single day toll in the ongoing third wave of the pandemic. With this, the cumulative total of known COVID-19 cases surged to 73,256, and the death total reached 2,974 while the number of recoveries stood at 57,630.

Last week, Afghanistan closed down all universities, schools, and other academic institutions.

"We are desperately trying to manage the third wave of the pandemic, but if people continued to defy health guidelines such as keeping social distance, wearing mask and washing hands, a catastrophe is imminent. Do not expect a miracle," Health Minister Waheed Majrooh said while issuing a stern warning about the surging infections.

In February, Afghanistan began the vaccine rollout following the World Health Organization's emergency use approval for the Indian-made shots. The country received 500,000 doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine from India, locally known as Covishield. It is being produced by the Serum Institute of India for mid- and low-income countries. An equal amount of the doses of the same vaccine has been gifted to Afghanistan by India.

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