BA flight to Pakistan after 10 years

The indication is the British government is taking a pragmatic view of relations with Pakistan

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 3.06.19, 2:33 AM
  • Updated 3.06.19, 2:33 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
A British Airways passenger plane. (Shutterstock)

The British government is showing confidence in Imran Khan by allowing British Airways to resume flights to Pakistan with effect from Sunday after a break of more than 10 years.

The indication is the British government is taking a pragmatic view of relations with Pakistan.

With US President Donald Trump threatening war against Iran, the timing may not be entirely propitious, however.

British Airways is a private airline but it could not have taken the decision to begin thrice-weekly flights to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, by Boeing 787 Dreamliner without security clearance from the foreign office and the security services in London.

The flights were stopped after a truck filled with explosives was detonated in front of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on September 20, 2008, killing 54 people, injuring at least 266 (including six British nationals) and leaving a 60ft wide, 20ft deep crater outside the building.

The outrage took place a couple of months before the 26/11 Mumbai attack by 10 terrorists from Pakistan.

There was and still remain concerns in London over the role militant groups in Pakistan might play in the radicalisation of British-born Pakistanis. But Britain now wants to do more business with Pakistan and also not penalise the million strong Pakistani diaspora in the UK for the actions of a minority.

The Pakistani-origin home secretary, Sajid Javid, a contender for the Tory leadership, may have been involved in the decision to clear BA flights. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is also of Pakistani origin, may not have been consulted formally but he would also support any decision to boost business, travel and other links with Pakistan.

Welcoming the resumption of the flights as “excellent news for both countries”, the British high commissioner in Islamabad, Thomas Drew, issued an upbeat message: “I see this launch as a vote of confidence in the future of those links — and, of course, a reflection of the great improvements in the security situation in Pakistan in recent years.

“The return of British Airways will give a particular boost to our growing trade and investment links. British Airways itself joins an increasing number of British companies doing business in Pakistan.”

He pointed out: “The links between Britain and Pakistan are already extraordinary — from culture and cricket, to people, politics and education.”

Robert Williams, BA head of sales for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, was right when he commented that the flights “will be particularly popular with the British Pakistani community who want to visit, or be visited by, their relatives”.

Those in Pakistan who can get tickets may also wish to

follow the fortunes of their side in the ICC World Cup — or applaud the performance of two Pakistani-origin players, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, if England, the favourites, take the cup.