A PALL of gloom descended on the entire nation as the news trickled in about the sad demise of our beloved former Emir HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani last Sunday. Though the baton of power was passed on to his son the Father Emir HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and subsequently to his grandson the Emir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Grandfather Emir always enjoyed a special place in the hearts of all Qataris for the unique role he played in nation-building.
It was Sheikh Khalifa’s pioneering efforts during his 23-year reign that put our country on the path of progress. After serving in various ministries, he rose to become the prime minister in 1970 and the Emir in 1972, and stayed focused on his vision to make Qatar a modern state and also serve his people better.
He took several initiatives, including strengthening diplomatic and economic relations with a number of nations, to put Qatar on the world map. His wise leadership helped the government utilise the increased state revenue from its hydrocarbon resources towards the country’s overall development.
Huge investments were made in energy, education, health and sports sectors. The establishment of Qatar University in 1973, and Hamad Medical Corporation and Qatar Olympic Committee, both in 1979, showed his commitment towards developing a progressive society.
He was the guiding spirit behind HH Sheikh Hamad, the then Crown Prince, who set up most of the sports clubs and world-class facilities, including the Khalifa International Stadium and Khalifa Tennis Complex. Qatar’s first-ever qualification for the Olympic football tournament (Los Angeles 1984) and maiden Games medal (Mohammed Suleiman’s 1,500M bronze at Barcelona 1992) also came during his rule.
Sheikh Khalifa also earned a name for his kindness and philanthropy, and for his extraordinary rapport with some of the common Qataris. He also stood unwavering and resolute when it came to the interest of Arab world.
Of course, we, the Qataris, are fortunate to see Sheikh Khalifa’s successors continuing his good work. We’re now among the richest, most peaceful and secure countries, with a rightful place among the comity of nations. We owe him a lot for this. He’ll live forever in our hearts.
May his soul rest in peace.