Qatar was once under the control of the Sheikhs of Bahrain till 1867. War broke out between the people of Qatar and their absentee rulers. To maintain peace in the area, the British installed Muhammad bin Thani al-Thani, who was the head of a leading Qatari family, as the ruler of the region. In 1893, the Ottoman Turks invaded Qatar, but the Emir was successful in thwarting their attempts. Qatar history tells us that finally in 1916, the Emir allowed Qatar to become a British protectorate. Qatar remained a British protectorate till 1971 when the British withdrew from the Gulf. Qatar adopted a provisional constitution and declared itself as an independent Arab country with the official religion as Islam and the official language as Arabic. Qatar became renowned for the skill of its people in weaving and cloth making. It was also renowned for the quality of its Arab steeds and camels.
Oil is the root cause for all the riches in the Gulf area. In 1935, a Qatari company received a 75 year oil concession. Oil was discovered around 1940 in Dukhan and oil exports began in 1949. The nine year delay was caused by the Second World War. The oil exports brought wealth to the country and about 85% of Qatar’s income comes in from oil exports. The people of Qatar enjoy one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. In 1971, Qatar was invited to become a part of the United Arab Emirates. But, Qatar history has shown us that Qatar and Bahrain were not in favor of the merger and so they formed independent nations. A defense pact was signed with the United States in 1994, making it the third Gulf State to do so.
The Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani deposed his father in a bloodless coup in June 1995. The new Emir enforced major liberal economic reforms and lifted press censorship. Qatar history tells us that the Crown Prince Jassim abdicated the throne in favor of his younger brother, Prince Tammim in the year 2003. After independence, Qatar rapidly became a rich country with a well placed modern infrastructure.
Immediately after independence, rivalries within the Al-Thani family ended in a coup by the chief minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani. Under the Khalifa’s administration, Qatar used its oil revenues to develop its infrastructure, and improve its health and education portfolios. It has cooperated with Saudi Arabia on regional and international issues. Qatar was instrumental in setting up the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) which has become the main regional and security body for the Gulf.
We have learnt from Qatar history that Qatar introduced its first constitution in June 2005, which guarantees freedom of expression, assembly and religion, as well as a 45-seat parliament. Thirty of the forty five seats of this advisory council will be filled up by a democratic process, while the remaining fifteen seats will be appointed by the Emir.
We see from Qatar history that the executive power has been held completely by the Emir, who is the member of the Al-Thani family which has ruled Qatar since independence. The Emir is both the head of the state and the head of the government. The process of democratization is still underway and will take some time for it to be completed. At the moment, there is no independent legislature or political party. Some decision making is given to a council of ministers appointed by the Emir.