PM nods to resuming international flights

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By Uzma Zafar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is set to resume international flight operations after Prime Minister Imran Khan gave approval on Tuesday, sources informed media.
According to the sources, the matter to resume international flight operations was discussed in a federal cabinet meeting where Special Assistant to PM on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari briefed the members on the difficulties and hardships faced by overseas Pakistanis.
The prime minister, while green lighting the resumption of international flights, asked the relevant authorities to devise a plan of action to repatriate Pakistanis stranded abroad.
At the initial stage, the flights will only operate from Gulf countries and after the safe repatriation of Pakistanis stranded there, those from other countries will be brought back as well, the sources said. People who have become unemployed and labours will be brought in the first phase, they added.
The premier, while stressing on the importance of overseas Pakistanis, said that they were close to his heart and that they could not be left alone at such pressing times. Millions of overseas Pakistanis have lost their jobs due to coronavirus pandemic, he said, adding that “we understand the pain that they are going through”. The premier assured the cabinet that the Pakistani government would do everything possible to help the Pakistanis.
According to the sources, Bukahri said that nearly 200,000 Pakistanis have become unemployed. It is the need of the hour that we stand with them and help them in every way possible Bukhari said, adding that a NCOC meeting should be called to review the matter. Prime Minister Imran Khan has given a green signal to resume international flight operations, after closing its airspace to commercial flights since March to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, media reported on Tuesday, citing sources. The decision was taken in a federal cabinet meeting, chaired by PM Imran Khan here in Islamabad.
Sources said that it was decided in the meeting to restore international flight operations in phases. In first phase, the international flights will be resumed for the Gulf region. In this connection, the prime minister has directed concerned authorities to prepare an action plan for the resumption of international flights. The unemployed workers and laborers will be repatriated first, according to sources. On the occasion, the premier said that the government understand the problems being faced by overseas Pakistanis due to Covid-19 pandemic and will not leave them alone in these difficult times. He said the PTI government was ready to provide every possible support to stranded nationals.
Earlier, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan told National Assembly that PIA had brought back 56,846 stranded Pakistanis through 285 flights from more than 60 countries over the past more than four months.