By Mohamed Iqbal
DOHA: With the Tokyo International Conference on Afghanistan taking place today, Kabul is pinning its hopes on Qatar’s support to help the country stand on its own feet, before the proposed Nato withdrawal in 2014, the Afghan Ambassador to Qatar, Khaled A Zekriya (pictured) said yesterday.
Afghanistan is also looking forward to signing a cooperation agreement with Qatar to facilitate trade relations between the two countries, the envoy said.
“The Tokyo conference is the last in a series of international conferences that will try to create a sort of equilibrium between security assistance and economic, social and political assistance to Afghanistan. A high level delegation led by Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
H E Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, is expected to attend the conference. We have great hopes about the road map for assistance that Qatar, along with other countries, will be presenting at the meeting,” Zekriya told The Peninsula yesterday.
Some 70 countries and several non-governmental organisations are attending the Tokyo conference. Afghanistan will present a 22-point national priority programme for development of the country focusing on key sectors like infrastructure, mining, agriculture, human resources and rural rehabilitation and development.
“The conference will also address the issues of how to improve governance, fight corruption and create a transparent mechanism for the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan scheduled for 2014,” he added.
He said the economic and trade relations between Qatar and Afghanistan would get a major boost, with the signing of the much-anticipated “technical co-operation’ agreement between the two countries.
“H E Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah is expected to visit Afghanistan soon and we hope the proposed agreement would be signed during that visit. There is tremendous potential for Qatari investment in Afghanistan, especially in areas like transportation, agriculture, mining, dam building and sewage network. Qatar has already contributed $40m to support the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” said the ambassador.
Kabul is also keen to export more manpower to Qatar, taking advantage of the high demand for skilled and semi-skilled workforce in the country, ahead of the Fifa World Cup to be held in 2022.
According to statistics available with the embassy, the number of Afghans in Qatar currently is about 2,600. Of these, some 1,000 Afghans hold Pakistani passports. Many Afghans came to the Gulf on Pakistani passports to overcome the difficulties in getting visas during the Afghan war, said Zakriya.
He added that the actual number of Afghans in Qatar could be higher, because all of them are not registered with the embassy.
“Most of the Afghans here are working in the construction sector or doing menial jobs. We are planning to bring more of our skilled workforce to Qatar, including professionals. We have signed an agreement with the Ministry of Labour to develop a mechanism for the security and health check of the new coming Afghan workers,” said the envoy.
He hoped that the growing bilateral relations would also facilitate the launch of direct flights between the two countries.The Peninsula