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Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf laid to rest

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KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who was defence minister when Iraq invaded the oil-rich country in 1990, was laid to rest on Sunday in a low-key funeral, a day after he died aged 86.

Foreign leaders and envoys later paid their final respects, including the Saudi crown prince and the rulers of Bahrain, Qatar and Jordan. Draped in a Kuwaiti flag, the coffin of Sheikh Nawaf, whose cause of death was not disclosed, was carried into a Kuwait mosque for prayers ahead of a burial ceremony that was broadcast on state television.

Attendance was largely limited to ruling family members, making for an intimate farewell for the emir who reigned for three years. “The choice reflects the late emir’s low-profile character,” said Bader al-Saif, a history professor at Kuwait University.

The new emir, Sheikh Meshal, a security expert and the half-brother of the late ruler, will receive condolences on Monday and Tuesday from the public and is expected to deliver his oath before parliament on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Kakar to visit Kuwait to convey condolences

During the burial ceremony, also attended by the speaker of parliament, rows of relatives gathered at Sheikh Nawaf’s final resting place and performed prayers. Some crouched before his grave, cupping their hands and reciting Holy Quran verses.

Later on Sunday, Sheikh Meshal received Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who offered their condolences.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani were also among the other top officials received by Kuwait’s new ruler.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was due to lead a US delegation to Kuwait ahead of a regional tour that will see him make stops in Bahrain and Qatar.

Born in 1937, Sheikh Nawaf took over as emir in September 2020 upon the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah, at the age of 91. He issued numerous amnesties for political prisoners, earning him the nickname “emir of pardons”. One of his last moves before his death was the signing of a draft decree approved by cabinet late last month, ordering the release of dozens of political prisoners.

Sheikh Nawaf was defence minister when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, setting off a war that drew in armies from around the world to end the occupation. And he was interior minister when Kuwait faced a severe threat from Islamist militants in 2005. The episodes deeply marked the country, but Sheikh Nawaf’s low-profile style meant he remained a relatively popular figure. He is succeeded by his half-brother, Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who was named crown prince in 2020.

Coming to power at the age of 83, Sheikh Meshal, a veteran of Kuwait’s security and intelligence apparatus, is not new to the duties of the emir, having assumed most of his predecessor’s key tasks in 2021.

Much attention will focus on his pick for crown prince amid speculation on whether he will usher in a younger generation of rulers, following in the footsteps of neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

PM Kakar due in Kuwait

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar is visiting Kuwait today (Monday) to condole the death of Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah.A senior official of the prime minister’s office told Dawn that the PM was schedule to visit to Quetta on Monday, but his official engagements have been rescheduled as he was going to Kuwait.

He said the prime minister will return to the country on the same day and will pay his visit to Quetta on Tuesday where he will inaugurate transmission of PTV Bolan and Hazarki (for the people Hazara).

PM Kakar has declared Monday (Dec 18) as a day of mourning in Pakistan as an expression of fraternal solidarity on behalf of the people and government of Pakistan, with the royal family, and the people of Kuwait on the sad demise of Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf. The national flag shall fly at half mast throughout the country on the day.

Syed Irfan Raza in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2023


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