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Qatar lifts trade relations with Pakistan amidst Gulf blockade

A Qatari shipping company is set to launch what it calls the fastest direct service between Doha and the Pakistani port city of Karachi this week, as the Gulf state seeks to establish new trade routes amid a land, air and sea blockade from its Arab neighbours.

State-run conglomerate Milaha is overseeing the venture, with the first vessel due to arrive at the newly-inaugurated Hamad Port outside the Qatari capital on September 11 following a transit time of four days - compared with the usual six-to-seven-day journey.

"We have been vigorously ramping up our operations between Qatar and key Asian markets in response to growing demand from traders, importers, and exporters on both sides," said Abdulrahman Essa Al-Mannai, Milaha president and chief executive officer, in a statement in the run-up to the launch.

The move comes as Qatar counters the economic blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt three months ago.

Milaha's new service, called PQX, will mainly bring perishable products and other food items such as fruits and vegetables, from Pakistan.

"Pakistan needs a market for perishable items, and this business venture will provide fast and secure solutions for importers and exporters from both countries within a short transit time," Arhama Siddiqa, a research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, told Al Jazeera.

Pakistani traders in Qatar say importing food items directly from Pakistan will help business. 

"This is a great step," said Malik Mudassar, a Pakistani national and shop owner of Al Muzammil Sweets in Doha. "I was using air cargo earlier for vegetables and fruits, but if I can get them through sea in four days or earlier, I can save money with the shipping cost."

Publication date: 9/8/2017


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