- Almost all national and international airlines suspend operations at Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport owing to security concerns
- Two flights diverted from Peshawar airport to Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad and Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore in wake of Tuesday’s attack
In the wake of a latest incident of firing on a landing plane late on Tuesday night in Peshawar, several national and international airlines Wednesday announced they were suspending their operations at Bacha Khan International Airport (BKIA) with immediate effect.
The officials at BKIA informed Pakistan Today that besides national airlines, Emirates Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Khaleej Airlines, Ittehad Airlines and Al-Arabia Airlines announced suspension of their operation. Almost all of these international airlines were operating at least one flight each from Peshawar for Middle East every day.
Moreover, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Shaheen Air International, Air Blue and Indus Airlines have also announced suspending their operations from the airport. Both PIA and Shaheen Air had been operating at least one flight each between Peshawar and Dubai on a daily basis.
So far no one from federal or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has issued a reaction on the decision of the airlines’ decision which could multiply hardships of thousands who frequent the airport.
SECURITY COMES FIRST:
The Emirates Airline’s spokesperson said the decision was made keeping in mind the safety of passengers and Emirates staff.
“Emirates has suspended flights to and from Peshawar effective June 25, 2014 until further notice, due to the security situation at the destination. Affected passengers will be rebooked on alternative Emirates’ flights and are asked to check on emirates.com for further updates. We apologise for the inconvenience caused – however, the safety of our passengers and crew is a top priority and will not be compromised,” the statement said.
Two flights were diverted from the Peshawar airport to Benazir International Airport in Islamabad and Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore in the wake of Tuesday’s attack, according to a spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Moreover, CAA confirmed that an Etihad Airways flight from Abu Dhabi would be landing in Islamabad while a PIA flight No PK895 coming from Kuala Lumpur would be landing at Lahore airport.
However, CAA spokesman Abid Ali Qaim Khani said that the Etihad Airways flight was not diverted but that the Rawalpindi and Peshawar flights had been combined due to low traffic and it would make its landing in Islamabad. He also added that the CAA has requested enhanced security at the Peshawar airport in the wake of last night’s attack.
THE RED ZONE:
Soon after 9/11 incident, Peshawar was declared Red Zone for foreigners including diplomats, officials, tourists and traders, which had badly affected hotel services.
Whereas due to car bomb attack on Pearl Continental Hotel in June 2009 last, almost all of foreign and international airlines cancelled over-night stay for its crew in Peshawar. Similar was the decision of PIA but it was reviewed after couple of months.
Due to its geographical location, security at the Peshawar airport is always tricky as the landing route starts from the tribal areas of Bara and Darra Adamkhel which are fragile for security. Peshawar airport is surrounded by residential areas, including the slums of Nawai Kalley, Badbher and the rural-urban mix population of Ring Road villages on one side.
A four-five kilometre road running along the landing strip of the airport is not properly guarded. The eastern strip runs along the main Bara Road, residential houses and shops.
It provides a complete overview of the airport, including the military and the passenger aircraft parked on the strips, whereas hangers are also visible to the residents there.
Security analysts have already described these areas surrounding the airport as a potential launching pad for attacks especially after the December 2012 assault on the airport.
The taking off strip is toward the northern side, which ends at the main University Road near Tambwan Chowk but the slums of Tehkal starts from the main road which have often been used by the miscreants to fire rockets at the airport in the past.