If there was one thing that the international community feared after the Taliban announced ‘complete control’ of Afghanistan, was that it might go back to its old intolerant ways. Amid a lack of disseminated information from the war-torn country, news of public hanging, beating up of women protesting against the regime and ban on female participation in the economy have been doing rounds on social media. While the West is set on its ‘wait and watch’ policy before recognizing the Taliban regime, Pakistan has been advocating for its legitimacy. Calls of incentivizing the Taliban instead of isolating them have been made from Islamabad time and again. It was this soft approach towards the Taliban that saw the country’s national carrier, Pakistan International Airline (PIA), becoming the only international airline to continue flights operation to Kabul after its takeover. The PIA also provided evacuation efforts of about 3,000 people through special flights. All this in ‘good faith’ but perhaps a similar approach isn’t being reciprocated as has been witnessed with the recent treatment of PIA staff in Kabul.
On Thursday, the national flag carrier had decided to halt its operations in Afghanistan due to ‘an unprofessional and heavy-handed attitude’ of the new Taliban government. The airline’s spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan stated that their flights were frequently delayed owing to the unprofessional attitude of the Kabul aviation authorities. Khan also mentioned that in one incident the PIA country representative was held at gunpoint for hours and only released after the intervention of the Pakistan embassy in Kabul. Such an attitude being meted out for a country’s staff that has been actively campaigning for the legitimacy of the Taliban regime on humanitarian grounds is worrisome.
Soon after the PIA announced its decision to halt its operations in the war-ravaged country, the Taliban government released a notification that warned the national carrier, along with Kam Air, to reduce its fare prices for flights from Islamabad to Kabul or “they would be blocked from landing in Afghanistan”. Perhaps the fears of the international community are coming true. The ‘my way or the high way’ attitude of the Taliban regime had been condemned in the past. The Taliban must shun this attitude and work out differences in an amicable manner, especially with its neighbouring country. As for Islamabad, certain phone calls need to be made to its ‘friends’ in Kabul. The tensions between the two are not making for good optics.