Pakistan’s national flag carrier has resumed direct flights to Iran’s northeastern city of Mashhad after a gap of five years, officials said on Thursday.

The first Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight to Mashhad since 2017 departed from Lahore on Wednesday night, PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan said in a statement.

“Flights to Mashhad are a continuation of the previously launched flights to Najaf, Baghdad and Damascus,” he said, adding that the new flight operations would help Shia Muslims visit holy sites in Iran.

Citing financial losses, PIA first suspended operations on some international routes, including Mashhad, in 2013.

Flights to the Iranian city were later restored before being grounded again in 2017.

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