The life and legacy of Late His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani

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It was a sad day for Qatar yesterday as the former Emir HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani passed away on Sunday evening at the age of 84. 

The current Emir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the grandson of Late HH Sheikh Khalifa, declared three days of public mourning across the country. 

“May Allah have mercy on his soul and make his residence Paradise, and grant him the best reward for what he achieved for his homeland and nation,” a statement from the Emiri Diwan added.

Born in 1932 in Al Rayyan, Sheikh Khalifa was the 6th Emir of Qatar and ruled for 23 long and prosperous years. 

Early career:

The first position of significance that HH Late Sheikh Khalifa held was the Minister of Education, the post was given to him in the year 1957. Following which Sheikh Khalifa was appointed as the Deputy Emir and later in the year 1960 he was named as the heir apparent and two weeks later he was appointed as the Finance Minister of the country.  

When the first cabinet of Qatar was formed in 1970, Sheikh Khalifa was chosen as the Prime Minister of the country, making him the first PM of Qatar. While serving as the Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa also shouldered the responsibilities of being the country’s Finance Minister, Deputy Emir and the Minister for Oil as well. 

Sheikh Khalifa became the first ruler of Independent Qatar after he announced the declaration of Independence from the British on September 3rd 1971. In February of 1972, Sheikh Khalifa formally ascended to power and became the first Emir of Independent Qatar. 

As Emir of Qatar.

As soon as Sheikh Khalifa took over as the Emir of the country, he painstakingly undertook the task to reorganizing the Government and make it efficient in handling both internal as well as external matters. To look after the relations of Qatar with its neighbouring and far-off countries Sheikh Khalifa appointed the first Foreign Minister of the country. 

Sheikh Khalifa also took the bold decision of curtailing the privileges enjoyed by the ruling family of the country. To further broaden the reach of government and improve the efficacy of the governance system Sheikh Khalifa approved the appointment of more cabinet ministers by amending the constitution of the country. 

It was during the time of Sheikh Khalifa that diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level were established with a number of countries throughout the world. 

On the domestic front, Sheikh Khalifa completely reorganized the hierarchy of the Government and consolidated his power necessary to take the country forward. Credited with laying the foundations of the modern day Qatar, Sheikh Khalifa oversaw the restructuring of government bodies and departments to make them more efficient and responsive. By 1992, Sheikh Khalifa had expanded his Cabinet to 17 members. 

In order to boost the economy of the country and generate more revenue from its oil reserves, Sheikh Khalifa took a keen interest in the sector and under his able leadership the country entered into agreements with major oil companies such as the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, Amoco and the French company Elf Aquitaine. 

Under the efficient leadership of Sheikh Khalifa, the country’s economy grew at a rapid pace. The export of oil during the rule of Sheikh Khalifa considerably increased owing to the agreements signed by the government with a number of foreign oil companies.

Companies such as the Qatar General Petroleum Corporation and the Qatargas Company were set up during his rule in 1974 and 1984 respectively. The same year, a committee was set up to run the Al Shamal gas field (Qatar North Field). 

The Qatar North Field was ready for production by 1991 and in the autumn of that year was officially inaugurated by Sheikh Khalifa himself. 

Under an Amiri Decree, Sheikh Khalifa approved the establishment of the Qatar monetary agency (now known as the Qatar Central Bank) in 1973. IN the same year, the foundation to Qatar University was also laid down as an education college and it became a full-fledged university by 1977. Similarly, the Hamad General Hospital was set up and inaugurated by Sheikh Khalifa in 1982. 

In order to reach out to people via the media Sheikh Khalifa established the Qatar News Agency by issuing a decree in 1975, the news agency remains as the primary media source of Government statements in Qatar, it functions under the aegis of the Ministry of Information.

Foreign Relations:

One of the biggest achievements of Sheikh Khalifa in terms of foreign relations is the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981, Sheikh Khalifa was one of the founding fathers of this economic and political union that is made of six Gulf States namely, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirate, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. 

Under the leadership of Sheikh Khalifa, Qatar joined the coalition of other Arab countries and made military bases available to the American-led coalition to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s aggression. Sheikh Khalifa was also one of the first Arab leaders to reach out to the Soviets in a diplomatic manner. 


Final years

Sheikh Khalifa was succeeded by the current Father Emir HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa in 1995. Sheikh Khalifa spent much of his time in Europe following his retirement and returned to Qatar in 2004 and finally breathed his last on Sunday, passing away at the age of 84, marking an end to the life of the architect of modern day Qatar. 

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