His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the ruler of Abu Dhabi, passed away on Friday, according to a statement by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.

A statement released by the Emirates News Agency (WAM) read, “The Ministry of Presidential Affairs condoles the people of the UAE, the Arab and Islamic nation and the world over the demise of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE.”

Following the news of the 73-year-old leader’s demise, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced 40 days of mourning. Flags within the country are to be flown at half-mast as federal and local offices are to suspend services.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan began his tenure in office on November 3, 2004, as he was elected to succeed his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who previously served as the country’s first president.

Born in 1948, Sheikh Khalifa was the second president of the UAE and the 16th Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

He was the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed.

Sheikh Khalifa’s rule was synonymous for a major restructuring of the federal government as well as the government of Abu Dhabi. The country witnessed accelerated development under his rule as he launched the first strategic plan for the UAE government to achieve balanced and sustainable development.

As a ruler, Sheikh Khalifa was determined to continue his father’s legacy, “[it] will continue to be the beacon guiding us into the future, a prosperous future where security and stability will reign,” he had stated.

Moreover, the president was also responsible for steering the development of the country’s oil and gas sector including downstream industries which contributed to economic diversification.

The ruler also initiated the process of direct elections in the UAE as he established a mechanism to evolve the nomination system for members of the Federal National Council.

His reign saw development within the northern emirates as he undertook tours within the region for the development of building projects related to housing, education and social services.

At the news of Sheikh Khalifa’s passing, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to his official Twitter account to express his condolences.

“Deeply grieved to hear about the passing of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of UAE. UAE has lost a visionary leader & Pakistan a great friend. We send our heartfelt condolences & sympathies to the government & people of the UAE. May Allah rest his soul in peace!” the Tweet read.

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