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Pakistan and Tajikistan are going to start direct flights next month ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Dushanbe for inaugurating the Central Asia-South Asia (Casa) 1,000 power import project.

The flights, beginning from May 6, are aimed at improving and strengthening bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries.

Tajikistan would be the first among Central Asian states to commence direct flights to Pakistan. About 100 passengers go to Tajikistan via indirect flights and land routes through Afghanistan every month.

The first flight is scheduled to depart from Lahore to Dushanbe. There will be two flights per week on this route.

According to a Tajik embassy official, Lahore to Dushanbe would be the first phase and in the second phase, direct flights would be operated from Karachi to Dushanbe.

Tajik Ambassador Jononov Sherali said, “Direct flights would increase economic ties and people-to-people contact between the two countries.”

Comparing the cost of direct and indirect flights, Jononov said, “An indirect flight costs Rs120,000 while the direct flight will cost only Rs35,000. Since it is a lot cheaper, it is likely that the number of passengers will also increase.”

Since Pakistan and Russia were making efforts to forge better economic ties including the signing of a government-to-government $2 billion deal for laying a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline from Karachi to Lahore, the Tajik official said, “Pakistani passengers can also use the Dushanbe route and take their next flight to Russia or even Europe.”

At present, no direct flights are operated between Pakistan and Russia.

Pakistan and Tajikistan are actively working on increasing the ground and air links as they are keen on boosting the bilateral trade and economic relations.

During a visit to Islamabad in November last year, the Tajik president had stressed the need for enhancing people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

Prime Minister Sharif and Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon also held one-on-one meeting and discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral relations in diverse fields.

Bilateral trade has steadily risen from $15 million in 2011 to $89 million in 2014.

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