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Qatar Crisis And Pakistan – OpEd

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Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt released coordinated statements, announcing a diplomatic break ties with the tiny-yet-wealthy peninsular nation of Qatar. They cut air, sea and land links and ordered Qatari officials and nationals stationed in their countries to return home. The move is a reflection of long-running frustrations with the Qataris, who the Saudis and Emiratis claim are supporting terrorist groups as well as being far too cordial with Iran, their regional archrival. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry called the measures “unjustified” in a statement and said the decision to sever ties was a violation of the country’s sovereignty, and “based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact.”

A complicated and uncertain state of affairs is playing out, with far-reaching stakes — Qatar, after all, is home to a crucial forward base for the U.S. Central Command saw this as a key moment after Trump’s visit to bring Qatar to heel. The crisis of Gulf is a concern for the entire Islamic world but it entails some serious economic political ramifications for Pakistan if deepened. Keeping in mind Pakistan’s strong ties with Saudi Arabia Pakistan has always maintained neutral ties with Gulf States at the time of disputes. Thus Pakistan has to go through a tightrope in the situation like Qatar and Saudi Arabia amid crisis.  The UN human rights chief said Wednesday he was alarmed by the possible impact of the diplomatic isolation of Qatar, warning it could lead to widespread suffering among ordinary people.

Saudi Arabia and its key allies have led to air, sea and land blockade. Cutting ties with Qatar has placed Pakistan in a very difficult situation. Pakistan relations with Gulf States have generally been good and exceptionally good with UAE and Saudi Arabia due to major source for remittances and the trend have shown upward trend. Pakistan appears unlikely to face any immediate and sizable economic impact because of the diplomatic blockade of Qatar by Saudi-led Arab nations.

Pakistan commercial ties with Qatar aren’t that strong as with Other Gulf states the present Government has also hoped that it could send more Pakistani workers to Qatar as it prepared to host the soccer world cup in 2022. Though Pakistan is unlikely to wade Gulf Crisis it could pose challenges to the policy makers. Last year Pakistani government unanimously turned down the request to contribute troops announced that they were suspending air, sea, and land transport with Qatar, while Qatari citizens are required to return home within two weeks. Pakistan’s exports to Qatar have maintained a steady decline over the year from $79m in 2012 to $63m last year, accounting for less than 0.5pc of the country’s total exports. This is a fraction of more than $25bn Qatar spends a year on imports from the world.

There has been no effort to ascertain if the Middle East tussle can open any business or trade opportunity for Pakistan.

This was apparent from a response from the federal ministries. Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria was unable to say if the Qatar situation could in any way affect Islamabad or if there was any concern for possible loss of trade and jobs in Qatar, at present, or in case of escalation of tension in the Middle East. At least, the relevant government agencies give an impression as if the situation was a non-issue. There has also been no effort on part of the government agencies or the private sector to ascertain if the Middle East tussle can open any business or trade opportunity for Pakistan — like Turkey and Iran appeared to be doing — as Qatar looks around to meet food requirements arising out of the Saudi blockade of its airspace and trade routes.

But the problem is that Qatar is just too bold, too often. The core issue presently is Qatar’s support of Islamists around the Middle East region, which emerged quite evident during the Arab Spring. This is as much a result of the personalised politics of Qatar’s foreign policy and elite bureaucracy as it is an active decision by Qatar to support Islamists. Moreover, Qatar argues vociferously that it does not support Islamists because the state prefers to, but because such groups like the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood enjoy significant public support.

But what might this mean for Qatar’s economy and people doing business there? With a population of about 2.7 million people, this tiny nation on the north-east coast of the Arabian Peninsula is trying to punch above its weight. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Dubai’s Emirates are suspending all flights to and from Doha. Both carriers operate four daily return flights to Doha.

Budget carriers FlyDubai and Air Arabia are also cancelling routes to Doha, with other airlines, including Bahrain’s Gulf Air and Egypt air expected to follow suit.I t comes after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all said they would stop flights in and out of Qatar, and close their airspace to the country’s airline, Qatar Airways. And it is Qatar’s flag carrier that risks being the biggest loser. Its flights to places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Cairo will stop.Qatar Airways passengers in Abu Dhabi vent frustration

Desert states, by their nature, struggle to grow food. And food security is a particular issue for Qatar given the only way in by land is a single border with Saudi Arabia. Every day hundreds of lorries cross the border, and food is one of the main supplies. About 40% of Qatar’s food is believed to come via this route.Saudi Arabia has said it will close that border and when the lorries stop, Qatar will become reliant on air and sea freight.

A new port, a medical zone, a metro project and eight stadiums for the 2022 World Cup are just some of the major construction projects going on in Qatar right now. Key materials, including concrete and steel come in by ship but also by land from neighbouring Saudi. The closure of that border could, as with food – push up prices and lead to delays. A materials shortage is already a threat that looms over Qatar’s construction industry. This risks making things worse.


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