A renewed upsurge in the ethnic violence which has racked Karachi this year has added to the list of difficulties facing Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government.

Bhutto formed a committee on 27 June under the Law & Parliamentary Affairs Minister N D Khan to negotiate with the elected representatives of the Mohajir National Movement (MQM). The MQM said it would announce its response once its co-ordination committee had discussed the issue. Over 800 people were killed in the unrest in 1994, and 900 so far this year.

Bhutto’s apparent peace move came after the MQM brought Karachi to a halt with a three-day strike which ended on 26 June. The party promised to stage regular protests every Friday and Saturday until its demands were met. The government has been left with few options other than negotiation, paramilitary police have failed to control the situation and calling in the army in 1992, served only to escalate the troubles.

The Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani issued the following statement at the second extraordinary meeting of the cabinet on 27 June: ‘Our country, as you know, has experienced difficult conditions, that are not unknown to you, which led to a difficulty in the continuation of the same situation. Those conditions compelled me, regrettably, to make a decision following the approval, allegiance and support of the honourable ruling family and the honourable Qatari people and to assume the reins of power in the country in succession to my father who will remain the father of all, dear, loved and who enjoys all respect and appreciation.’

Sheikh Hamad was born in Doha City in 1950 and graduated from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, UK in 1971. He joined the Qatari Armed Forces as a major and was appointed commander of the first mobile battalion (now known as the Hamad mobile battalion). He was later appointed commander in chief of the armed forces.

In 1977 he was appointed defence minister and named heir apparent, and was subsequently appointed the supreme president of the higher planning council.

The Qatar News Agency (QNA) noted in a 27 June dispatch that ‘Sheikh Hamad was running the country in the past few years.’