Howell shot 66 to conclude the first round, which was suspended Thursday due to a sandstorm, at the Doha Golf Club. He then posted an even-par 72 to remain at 6-under as second-round play was called because of darkness.
The Englishman, who won the 1999 Dubai Desert Classic, is tied with Frances Jean-Francois Remesy. Remesy shot 70 in Round 1, and was 4-under through 12 holes of his second round.
Another Frenchman, Gregory Havret, is tied with Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley at 5-under. McGinley has completed 13 holes of Round 2, while Havret is through 10. The Irishman, who started his second round on the back nine, was in sole possession of the lead, at 7-under, before dropping back-to-back shots at the second and third holes.
Seventy-one players have yet to start their second 18.
Howell had three birdies and three bogeys in shooting 72. His final birdie came on the final hole, just as the siren sounded to call play.
Its a relief not to come back tomorrow, he said. I played nicely all day and its good to be in this position after missing the cut in the Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament I won four years ago.
Remesy has one career European Tour victory, at the 1999 Estoril Open, and has played well at this venue. He was in third place after 54 holes two year ago, but faltered on Sunday. Last year, he played well all week and tied for second with Nick Dougherty behind Adam Scott.
I feel my game is improving every year and I know I can compete, even in fields full of great players, he said. I am looking forward to a top finish at worst and maybe a top-5 or top-3. To win you have to believe in yourself and you only need to look at what Robert-Jan Derksen did last week to see what belief can do.