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Panic-stricken Pakistan keeps its airspace shut till March 4, four airports partially opened but airlines avoid operations

All international flights that use Pakistani airspace have been rerouted to avoid flying over the country

Panic-stricken Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Friday said in a fresh NOTAM (A Notice to Airmen) that the country’s airspace will be closed till March 4. However, exceptions have been made for to and fro operations from four international airports, namely, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, and Islamabad which would operate with restrictions.

“Flight operations only to/from Karachi international, Peshawar international, Quetta international and Islamabad international airports with restricted entry/exit as follows will be available,” said the fresh circular.

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had on Friday morning said that it will soon announce its decision regarding the restoration of Pakistan’s airspace. The authority tweeted that the decision will be made shortly upon the expiry of existing NOTAM.

Although reports say that Pakistan has partially reopened flight operations from few of the airports, according to live flight tracking website Flightradar24, no civilian aircraft has operated in the country today. The airspace looks completely empty on the website, and data for the four airports show that no flights landed or took off today. It seems that the airlines have decided to keep away from Pakistan for the time being, even if authorities have allowed limited operations in four airports.

Earlier, Pakistan had shut down all of its airports and airspace, after India gallantly retaliated to the audacious infringement by Pakistan’s airforce into Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and Nowshera sectors. Pakistan had lost one of its fighter jets, F16 in the clash, while one Indian MiG-21 jet was also lost and the pilot was captured by the Pakistani military.

Pakistan, fearing escalation, immediately stopped its domestic and international flight operations from Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Islamabad airports. The International flights that transit between Indian and Pakistani airspace had also been affected. Due to the closure of Pakistani airspace, the international flights that usually fly over the nations had to be rerouted, most them flying southwards over Arabian sea, while some of them went north of Pakistan over China.

Though closing of Pakistan’s airspace has disrupted major routes between Europe and South East Asia and Middle-east, what might leave Pakistan flustered are reports that confirm, China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan, has decided to cancel all flights to and from Pakistan and rerouted its international aircraft flying over the Pakistani airspace. On Wednesday when the airspace was shut down, several flights scheduled to fly over Pakistan had either returned to origin station or diverted to avoid Pakistani airspace. After that, normal flight operations going on bypassing Pakistan.

China has allowed foreign airlines to use its airspace as an alternate route. Civilian Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) came out with the contingency plan for both domestic and foreign airlines to use Chinese air space to reroute flights that use the Pakistani airspace.

Lately, it also confirmed that the closure of Pakistani airspace has affected almost 400 flights and that the greatest impact of the airspace shutdown has been felt by Iran.

The rising tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, followed by firstly India’s hard-core retaliation in the form of an ariel airstrike then its befitting reply to the infringement by Pakistan army into Indian airspace has left Pakistan fragmentized and jittery. Pakistan has been desperately trying to get India to de-escalate, but India has been absolutely firm, that this time either Pakistan takes reliable steps to wash off terrorism breeding on its soil or payback for every drop of blood India has lost fighting terrorism.

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