He may be young as an ambassador but he is very keen and working the midnight oil as it were to enhance bilateral ties with Qatar. He knows both countries very well and sees a lot of potential to cement the bilaterals.
Abdul Hakim Dalili, the recently appointed ambassador of Afghanistan to Qatar, has been a student and, then, teacher in Doha. He has also contested elections in Afghanistan. For the time being, he is focusing on furthering relations with Qatar.
Dalili recently spoke with Community about his earlier life in Pakistan, higher studies in Qatar, and political career in Afghanistan.
The ambassador, who hails from Ghazni in Afghanistan, was only seven when the-then Soviet Union invaded his country. “I along with my family migrated to Pakistan when I was 10. We travelled by road and settled in Peshawar (capital city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan). I got my school and college education in the city. I still cherish my childhood memories of Peshawar where I used to play and swim in a canal with other young boys of my age.”
Dalili was a shining student. He got an educational scholarship to come to Qatar and study here. “It was in 1989 that I came to know about scholarships being offered to Afghan refugees by the Qatari government. There were five scholarships with as many as 200 students in the fray. I was one of the five successful students. I attended a religious school and completed the course with distinction, securing the first position.”
The distinction in his studies opened new avenues for Dalili in Qatar. ‘After I passed the course, I got a scholarship in Qatar University in 1992. The ‘Alama-e-Islami’ scholarship was given to one outstanding student. I studied civil engineering at the university and passed the degree, again with distinction in 1997.
“During my graduation ceremony, I was bestowed the degree by the-then Amir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. When I received the degree, His Highness asked me about my studies in Qatar and about my country. On his instructions, I was appointed as a teaching assistant in the same department of the university. I taught at the university for about seven years.”
The shining student and a successful teacher eventually gave up his job in Qatar to serve his country. “During the Hamid Karzai government, I was offered to work as the ambassador to Qatar. However, due to some unavoidable reasons, I could not join the embassy here. I decided to stay back in Afghanistan and started taking part in political activities. I also got involved in education sector as well as doing business there. I then contested elections from the constituency of Ghazni.”
Dalili was also offered to become a minister during the current government of President Ashraf Ghani. He however, did not take up the offer. “They also wanted me to head the Embassy of Afghanistan in Kuwait. However, I accepted the government’s offer to come to Qatar.”
For Dalili, the posting as an ambassador is a challenging one. “I have been very busy since joining the station. It is challenging because of the situation in our country. However, I love this job as it gives me the feeling that I am doing something for my country at a crucial juncture in our history. It gives me a sense of achievement.”
Responding to a question regards what is tougher — politics or diplomacy, the ambassador smiled and said politics. “Being a politician is not an easy job in Afghanistan. The Afghans have been through very difficult times for last 40 years. They have been facing wars, internal fights, financial constraints and other social traumas. It becomes harder to convince them and bring them to some sort of political process.
“However, when you achieve something, it gives you a sense of fulfilment. I also find diplomacy very interesting. In this job, you face different kinds of people. They are well educated and talking to them and presenting your arguments is not much difficult. If your arguments carry weight and your mission is noble, it is not very difficult to put your point across the table.”
Dalili aims at improving bilateral ties with Qatar in all sectors. “It goes without saying that peace is the first and foremost requirement of Afghanistan. I however, focus on enhancing economic co-operation between our two countries. At the end of the day, it is better economic conditions that help reduce violence and bring in constructive developments in any country.
“My duty will be to open the doors for Afghan people to Qatar. As of today, there are about 5,000 Afghans living here. The number is not even noticeable given the possibilities and opportunities that exist between the two countries. There are lots of professionally qualified Afghans who can contribute towards the development of both countries.”
Dalili is confident that the personal bond he enjoys with Qatar will help enhance bilateral economic ties. “I chose this country because I spent about 20 years here. I have lots of friends and students here. I am quite intimate with the local culture. I believe this will make my job very easy.”
He sees immense opportunities in different fields for the two countries. “In Afghanistan, we have lots of foreign investment opportunities in sectors such as housing, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, minerals etc. We have readied many , which we will explain to the Qatari investors.
“We also have investors from Afghanistan who are keen to invest in textile, jewellery, transport, and agricultural products areas. We have different herbal medicines to offer to the world.”
Dalili also emphasises on connecting culturally with Qatar. “Cultural ties are long lasting. This paves the way for expanding ties in other areas. The good thing is that both countries have many things in common as far as culture goes. Both are Islamic countries. I will further work on promoting tourism and cultural exchanges.”
Talking about his leisure activities, the ambassador spoke indulgingly of his passion for swimming and table tennis. “When I was young, I used to be a good player of cricket. Now, I do not play but follow the sport keenly. I am also an avid reader. I like reading books on Islamic history and comparative religions.”
About his plans for the long term, he said: “I think I will go into politics.”
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