ISLAMABAD - Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has started twice a week flight operations to Mashad, Iran, by launching direct flights from Pakistan every Tuesday and Saturday.According to a statement issued here, the first flight PK-253 for the sector Lahore-Quetta-Mashad took off from Allama Iqbal International Airport on Tuesday morning. The passengers of the flight were seen off by Director Marketing PIA Sohail Yaqoob and senior officials of the airline. Federal Minister for Provincial Harmony Makhdoom Riaz Hussain Peerzada and Iranian Consul General Lahore, Mohammad Hossein Bani Asadi were the guests of honour. The government officials and senior media persons were also present at the launching ceremony held at Lahore airport. Consul General of Iran Mohammad Hossein Bani Asadi welcomed the commencement of PIA flight operation to Mashad. He said that the flight will be beneficial for people of Pakistan and Iran and will further strengthen bilateral relations between Pakistan and Iran. Federal Minister for Provincial Harmony Makhdoom Riaz Hussain Peerzada said that PIA flight to Mashad will greatly benefit the Zaireen travelling to Mashad. Director Marketing PIA Sohail Yaqoob said the commencement of flight operations to Mashad fulfils the longstanding demand of the people of Pakistan. He said that on the instructions of Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, PIA has started flights to Mashad. He said that the airline plans to add new destinations to PIA network while increasing frequencies of its existing flights.