Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said the government will gradually bring back Pakistanis stuck abroad after the National Coordination Committee permitted to restore flight operations.
“The National Coordination Committee on Wednesday approved the restoration of 17 flights. A flight schedule for international flights has been announced from April 4 to 11,” Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said the government’s first priority was to bring back Pakistanis stranded in transit. “Those with expired visas are our second priority and then those Pakistanis and students who are waiting in foreign countries to return to the country would be evacuated,” he noted.
Qureshi added that all passengers arriving in the country would go through a corona testing at the airport, therefore testing and quarantine capacities were being increased.
“If the protocol is strictly implemented we will think about resuming flights for Karachi as well,” he said.
A day earlier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was given permission to partially resume its flight operations to help repatriate citizens stranded abroad.
In the first stage of operations, PIA will bring back a limited number of Pakistani travellers, a spokesperson for the national carrier said in an announcement.
PIA will initially fly stranded passengers from Canada and the UK who were meant to travel to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, the spokesperson said.
Limited flight operations from Toronto will resume on April 3, while operations from the UK will resume on April 4.
All repatriation flights will initially land at the Islamabad airport, the spokesperson said. Once the flights land, all passengers will be tested in the airport lounges and transferred to a local hotel for six hours.
Pakistan extends suspension of international, domestic flights till April 11
Separately, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Wednesday said it had suspended all passenger flight operations till midnight April 11.
“The only exception would be the diplomatic, special/cargo flights and flights of the national carrier to/from Pakistan holding special approval from the competent authority for transporting stranded Passengers,” the statement read.
In a separate handout, the CAA said, “Government of Pakistan has decided to extend the suspension of all types of domestic scheduled/non-scheduled, chartered, private aircraft and general Aviation operations up to April 11, 2020, 2359 PST.”
However, domestic flight operations to/from Islamabad International Airport for Gilgit and Skardu Airport would continue as per normal operations, the statement read.
“The only exemption to the above would be cargo and special flights subject to necessary clearance,” the CAA said.