PIA resumes Swat flights a day after attack on Malala
SAIDU SHARIF: Pakistan’s state carrier resumed flights to the former Taliban stronghold of Swat on Wednesday, hoping to revive tourism to the mountainous region a day after a child rights activist was shot.
Malala Yousafzai, 14, was attacked on her school bus in Mingora, the main town of the northwestern district, on Tuesday, reviving security concerns in a district where the army said in July 2009 it had crushed a Taliban insurgency.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) scheduled its first flight to Swat in more than five years before Malala was shot, saying it wanted to attract tourists to what was once dubbed the “Switzerland of Pakistan.”
“Our main aim is to facilitate both local and foreign tourists to the region where normalcy has returned and I don’t think there will be any security problems in the future,” PIA chief Junaid Yusuf told journalists.
Asked if Malala’s shooting would discourage visitors, he condemned the attack as “painful” but said it was an isolated incident. All private schools in Swat were closed on Wednesday in the wake of the shooting.
The airline suspended commercial flights to Swat in June 2007 as the Taliban began to take root in the area, terrorising people, beheading opponents and destroying girls’ schools.
PIA, which has faced serious financial problems in recent years, attributed the delay in resuming flights to the renovation of the airport at Saidu Sharif, the twin town of Mingora, where soldiers stood guard as the aircraft landed.
PIA now intends to fly from Islamabad to Swat twice a week from October 28.