In view of escalating tensions with India, Pakistan has closed its airspace for commercial flights and indefinitely suspended flight operations at many of its major airports. According to news agency PTI, the country's Civil Aviation Authority announced this after its military's media arm - the Inter-Services Public Relations - acknowledged the development.
Airports will be used solely for "military purposes" until it is reopened for commercial activities, an official told DawnNewsTV, adding that a red alert has also been issued. "All civilian flight operations have been suspended," he confirmed to the Pakistani television channel.
News agency IANS quoted reports as stating that flight operations at airports in Lahore, Multan, Karachi, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Islamabad have been suspended. According to airport officials, Peshawar's Bacha Khan International Airport was also temporarily closed for commercial flights.
The move comes amid escalation of tension between India and Pakistan after Indian Air Force jets struck terror bases across the border on Tuesday, and the neighbouring country retaliated with an aerial incursion of its own in the Rajouri and Poonch sectors today. A statement from the Indian External Affairs Ministry said that the Air Force "responded instantly" to the Pakistani jets, shooting down one of them. However, India "lost a MiG 21 in the engagement, and the pilot is missing in action", it added.
According to sources, Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mujtaba Baig said flight operations in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces have been indefinitely suspended. Flight operations at the Lahore, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Multan and Rawalpindi/Islamabad airports have been suspended, and planes that had already left for these airports from foreign destinations have been diverted to safer zones.
Earlier, DawnNewsTV quoted sources at the Karachi airport as saying that Pakistan International Airlines' New Delhi-bound flight PK-270 had been cancelled due to tensions along the border.
India had also shut down nine airports in the northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, but the order was later withdrawn. Flight operations have already resumed from some airports, including Jammu.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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