PM Kakar to visit Kuwait tomorrow to condole death of Emir Sheikh Nawaf

Published December 17, 2023
The coffin of Kuwait’s late Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah is carried out of the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Kuwait City ahead of burial during his funeral on Sunday. — AFP
The coffin of Kuwait’s late Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah is carried out of the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Kuwait City ahead of burial during his funeral on Sunday. — AFP

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar will head to Kuwait tomorrow (Monday) on a one-day trip to offer condolences on the death of Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah’s, the Foreign Office (FO) said on Sunday.

Sheikh Nawaf had died on Saturday, aged 86, according to the royal court, just over three years after assuming power. The cause of his death was not immediately disclosed.

He was admitted to a hospital late last month due to what the state news agency described at the time as an emergency health problem but said he was in a stable condition.

Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, 83, who has been Kuwait’s de facto ruler since 2021, when the frail emir handed over most of his duties, was named as Sheikh Nawaf’s successor.

Kuwait has announced 40 days of mourning and a three-day closure of official departments.

The FO said Kakar would undertake the visit to “convey to the royal family, the government and the people of Kuwait the sympathies and condolences of the government and people of Pakistan” on Sheikh Nawaf’s death.

In a message on social media platform X on Saturday, Kakar had said that Pakistan stood in solidarity with the royal family and people of Kuwait at this moment of grief. He said the late emir would always be remembered for his contribution to strengthening Pakistan-Kuwait relations.

Sheikh Nawaf laid to rest in small ceremony

Sheikh Nawaf was laid to rest on Sunday at a private funeral attended by select relatives. Draped in a Kuwaiti flag, the coffin was carried into a Kuwait mosque for prayers ahead of a burial ceremony that was broadcast on state television.

Attendance was limited to members of the ruling family, making for an intimate and low-key farewell for the ruler who reigned for three years. The speaker of Kuwait’s parliament was also present.

“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, who is expected to deliver his oath before parliament on Wednesday, attended the service. He will receive condolences on Monday and Tuesday from the wider public.

During Sunday’s burial ceremony, rows of relatives stood at Shiekh Nawaf’s final resting place and performed prayers.

Some crouched before his grave, cupping their hands, and reciting verses from the Holy Quran.

Across Kuwait City, large digital billboards displayed pictures of the late ruler, dubbing him the “emir of wisdom, forgiveness and peace”. Flags where lowered to half-mast amid a 40-day mourning period that will also see government offices shut until Tuesday.

Speaking outside the mosque where the funeral took place, Kuwaiti citizen Ghanem al-Sulaimani said he was saddened by the death of the man he called the “emir of humility and forgiveness”.

“He left a great legacy … distinguished by his great love for his people,” he told AFP.

As he formally takes the helm of the Opec member with the world’s seventh-largest oil reserves from his half-brother, Sheikh Meshal is expected to preserve key Kuwaiti foreign policies, including support for Gulf Arab unity, Western alliances and good ties to Riyadh — a priority relationship.

Sheikh Nawaf’s three-year reign as emir, relatively short by Kuwait standards, was marred by ill-health. His predecessor and brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, reigned for 14 years and shaped the Gulf state’s foreign policy for two generations.

Sheikh Nawaf’s six decades in public service included stints as minister of defence, interior and labour. He was also deputy chief of the national guard and a governor.

Pay respects

Dignitaries from around the world, including Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, are due in Kuwait to pay their respects.

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on X wished Kuwait’s new ruler success and said he would work with Sheikh Meshal to advance cooperation in the Gulf.

Sheikh Nawaf was 83 when he became emir in 2020, at the time the oldest ruler to take power in the Gulf state that was invaded and occupied by Iraq in 1990.

The late emir was perceived domestically as a consensus-builder who sought to repair a long-strained relationship between the parliament and government and who pardoned dozens of dissidents and other citizens who had voiced public criticisms.

Eid Abdullah Al Fraih, a 60-year-old Kuwaiti retiree, said he was captivated by the late emir’s humility and compassion and that he believed Sheikh Meshal would continue his predecessor’s efforts to improve ties between the government and parliament.

“Kuwait will be prosperous [under his reign[. The [political and economic] situation will improve, God willing,” he said.

Under the constitution, the emir chooses his successor, the crown prince, but traditionally the ruling family convenes a meeting to build consensus. Parliament also has to approve it.

Rulers of other Gulf states such as Saud Arabia and the UAE have in recent years picked their sons as their designated successors, signalling power would next pass to the next generation of the ruling family.

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