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Kashmir Solidarity Day celebrated in Qatar

The Pakistan embassy on Sunday hosted a gathering in Doha to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. During his speech, the Pakistani ambassador, Shahzad Ahmad, said that the Government of Pakistan has declared an additional ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ keeping in mind the disturbing situation in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.

The ambassador implored the international community to step forward and help the Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination. He also urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission to send fact-finding missions. It was predictable and laced with a large serving of vitriol.

By raising the issue, Pakistan has once again blatantly disregarded its pledge to the 1972 Simla Agreement. Signed by the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and then-Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the two countries contracted that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that has to be resolved without third party involvement.

Dwindling international support and a losing battle

Pakistan’s Kashmir bogey has hardly left any impression in the Gulf or the West. The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has in the past issued statements denouncing the bloodshed in Kashmir, much of it triggered by terrorists reportedly supported and trained by Pakistan. The Gulf States have not issued any announcement so far validating Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, which indicates an erosion of global support, if not a rebuff. Even North Africa, a Muslim majority region, hasn’t come out in Islamabad’s defence.

While Pakistan’s customary allies have, expectedly, maintained their official line, the capitals in the West haven’t shown much interest and have exercised restraint despite several briefings by Pakistan foreign ministry in the recent past. What they have been unable to overlook is the fact that Pakistan protected Osama Bin Laden until he was eliminated by the US and the country still harbours UN-designated terrorists, like Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who roams freely on its soil with its tacit support.

In the current scenario, Pakistan is largely perceived as part of the problem, which is a sign of its failure to sell its outlook on Kashmir to the global community. India, on the other hand, has mostly succeeded in shrugging off the impact of its own faults against the Kashmiris and has managed to expose Pakistan as the culprit.

Kashmiris continue to pay a heavy price

Since the uprising that started in the Valley in 1989-90, Pakistani authorities continue to hold the position that they only provide moral and political support to the freedom fighters for the liberation of their homeland from India, while India maintains that Pakistan is accountable and fuels the insurgents and their terrorist activities. It also alleges that Pakistani army personnel are involved with the uprising. The violence has killed close to 50, 000 people, which does not include people who have gone missing due to the turmoil. Some human rights groups put the death toll at twice that number.

Reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have recognized Indian reports of organized human rights breaches by militants, ranging from kidnapping to ethnic cleansing of several hundred thousand Hindu Kashmiri Pandits.

A 2010 US state department report held insurgents in Kashmir and other parts of the country liable of committing grave cruelty, including the killing of Indian security personnel and civilians, and of engaging in extensive persecution, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.

Pakistan needs to restructure and tidy up its policy on Kashmir. Considering the deeply embedded antagonism on both sides, it will not be easy for a solution to emerge, but India and Pakistan need to seize every given opportunity to come up with a revamped policy that is aligned with today’s realities. Alleviation of the anguish of the Kashmiris ought to be the collective concern.

Qatar is not diversifying its economy because it is, unlike its Gulf neighbours, running out of its oil and gas reserves any time soon. They have the third largest gas reserves in the world, following Russia and Iran, with an estimated 872 trillion cubic feet – the equivalent of 188 billion barrels of oil. At the current production rate, it is estimated these reserves will last for approximately 156 years.

The country is branching out because there is more to Qatar than oil and gas. The country has embarked on a wide-ranging investment programme to enhance the economic diversity ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The programme includes investing oil and gas revenues into major infrastructure projects, industrial manufacturing and to strengthen and develop financial and government services. The diversification also includes the transportation services and the tourism sector. The investment aims to diversify national revenue sources, rebalancing Qatar’s economy to focus on knowledge sectors that is in line with Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

The inaugural Qatar Self Sufficiency Exhibition 2018, which just concluded in Doha (April 1-3), was one such impactful declaration outlining the country’s expansion plan. The expo provided the perfect platform to showcase latest production lines for food, healthcare, industrial and environmental sectors. Apart from local manufacturers, the trade fair caught the fancy of exhibitors from Kuwait, Lebanon, UK, Turkey, Spain, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Iran, China and more, who congregated at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre to network and share ideas for growth and development. Deals worth QR 15 Million were signed.

Abdulrahman Saleh Al Obaidly, Chairman of HiSky for Tourism and Exhibitions, the organisers of the exhibition, said that the idea stems from the vision of the Emir to broaden the economic horizons and focus on the significance of self-sufficiency.

It is expected that post 2022, Qatar will maintain a new chapter of economic progress focused on knowledge sectors and developing international expertise and talent.

Embargo a boon in disguise?

It’s been nearly a year since the Saudi Arabia-led blockade came into effect. If the idea was to stifle Qatar’s progressive stride, it has failed miserably. What it has done instead is it has stimulated the tiny nation into becoming more resolute and self-reliant. It triggered the emergence of a new Qatar.

While it was tough going initially, the siege finally drove Qatar to focus on turning hardships into privilege and freedom. There has been an explosion of developmental activities in all sectors of the economy. It is rapidly achieving food security with new-fangled urgency after the blockading countries severed supply routes. The predicament inspired Qatari farm owners to expand farmlands and amplify food and fodder productions with government support. Thousands of Jersey cows have been flown down from Australia to boost milk production and make Qatar self-reliant in dairy products.

As per a ministry report, Qatar’s poultry sector has seen a production surge from 40 to 80 percent since blockade took effect. It is also becoming self-sufficient in fresh meat by producing 100 percent of its requirements by 2018 end. The country has doubled its livestock and increasing fish yield with the start of fishing projects in its territorial waters.

Qatar has been continuously intensifying and deepening its trade relationship with a number of friendly nations. Metro and light railway networks and FIFA World Cup-related ventures are progressing advancing unimpeded. Qatar’s economy is predicted to remain one of the fastest growing in the region with a projected 3.4 growth in 2018.

Diversification will boost employment opportunities

Given the limited local population and the workforce in Qatar, the additional employment opportunities generated during the process of economic diversification will benefit locals as well as expatriates from around the world.

There was a reported decrease in job advertisements in Qatar at an average rate of 20% per month in the initial phase due to the blockade. However, the changing dynamics and the growing thrust on economic diversification through the setting up of new industries with the injection of foreign investments promises a robust market for people looking to make a living in the world’s richest country.

Although the Qatar government is already involved in reforming the labour laws, it must now also consider making it favourable enough to attract employees from various nationalities to fulfil its future workforce demands that is expected to continue to rise.


Doha metro project

The progressive Doha Metro Rail Project is a planned rapid transit system in Doha to facilitate smooth commutation to people in Doha. The project was necessitated with the urge to modernize the commutation and at the same time deal with traffic related issues such as jams, accidents, pollution and undue delays.

As per the recent inspection conducted by Prime Minister and Minister of Interior H. E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani, on Tuesday at Economic Zone Station, the project has reached 73 percent of completion stage and is expected to approach the end by 2018 and will be complete in 2019, much before being fully operational in 2020.

As planned, Doha Metro is expected to have four lines. These four lines will intersect the country to provide maximum travel coverage.

The Red line will cover the costal part of the country while connecting the towns of Al Khor in the north and Mesaieed in the south via Lusail, West Bay, Msheireb and the New Doha International Airport (NDIA).

The green line would serve as an education line, follow Al Rayyan Road connecting Education City with the Heart of Doha. Furthermore, it would link to Umm Slal and the Industrial Area South.

The Gold line will serve as a historic line from East-West direction and connects the Airport City North via central Msheireb with Al Waab Street, Al Rayyan South and Salwa Road.

The Blue line would serve as City line that will connect the residential and commercial areas of West Bay and Airport City North along the main C-Ring Road.

The project, despite having various infrastructural challenges due to the GCC blockade, has achieved a considerable momentum. Given the success of Metro trains in countries around the globe, the project will mark a solution to a lot of major traffic problems while easing the excess flow of vehicles as the technology is extremely time saving.

However, we hope that the modern technology may not be expensive than the existing transportation structure. In the initial stages of project, Qatar Rail’s, Saal al Mohannadi, assured that the operational cost of the project will be recovered by renting out sites, services and advertisements, along with revenue from ticket sales. He assured that tickets will be affordable for everyone.

Hopefully, the case is still the same as most of the people who will prefer traveling by metros will be the ones looking forward to saving both time and money. Hence, the purpose of the project could only be realised keeping the affordability as a priority.