I am a fan of Eqbal Ahmed.
In times that we live in plagued by imperialism and intellectual terrorism of the dominant philosophies over more oriental ones; and being from a country that is probably the most infected with brutal fallout of American war in Afghanistan – I miss him more.
His was a sane voice, measured and dispassionately accurate about even the most volatile political situations he lived through. His commentaries right from the start on Algerian struggle against the French, on colonization of Middle East at a time when the entire world was going through the decolonization process, on Indochinese struggle against ‘draining the sea’ tactics of Pentagon and on the militant pseudo- Jihad as a ‘conglomerate’ rather than a spiritual struggle as it is commonly perceived to be, all speaks volumes of sharp analysis of political crises.
The genius of this kind is rare. The contrast is even starker at the backdrop of the nascent Pakistani media that talks relentlessly about terrorism, Jihad, America, Taliban and Pakistani government, and yet fail to raise a distinct and compelling voice of reason to national and international audience.
Eqbal Ahmed was a voice so brazenly accurate in its analysis, so uncompromisingly unflinching in its insistence of truth that even the most hypocrites of leaders found him hard to evade. Perhaps this was the reason he was charged with a rather ridiculous plot of kidnapping Kissinger in 1971. Also, Transnational Institute, ‘a network of activist scholars’ that was founded by Ahmed in 1974 was on top of the enemy lists in Watergate hearings.
As to what happened to all these bogus allegations against him, time tells us a neat story. Harrisburg trial only served to bring Ahmed to even more prominence in a positive way; and President Nixon caught up in his own dirty acts became the first and only president to resign the office in the history of United States.
The State of Pakistan and may I add, the public and the opinion makers themselves do not attribute to Eqbal Ahmed’s scholarship the importance that he deserves. Our citizens know more about the opinions of the so called Islamists figures of our times then of the insight of Eqbal Ahmed.
This state of ignorance in general public opinion is unfortunate, particularly so because Eqbal’s idea of ‘out legitimizing the enemy’ instead of ‘out fighting’ them is the best available strategy to try in the present crises of Talibanization and pressure from the West.
This is now a question of survival. The ideology of Pakistan has been hijacked by the self proclaimed leaders of religion and it is very crucial for Pakistani people to have an opinion that rejects terrorizing people in the name of Islam. The menace of suicide bombings; of pushing a particular brand of Islam down our people’s throat ; of intolerance and bigotry will not go away with ‘operations’ or drone attacks. In fact, this counter terrorism will only serve to aggravate the situation by giving legitimacy to Taliban that figure out positively in the situation as Muslims fighting against infidel America.
In short, disapproval of Taliban by America is not going to help us. Disapproval by our own people to Jihad International Inc is the only answer.
And obviously, that is not to say, we have to buy Western arguments of Pakistan, America and Afghanistan having a common foe! No, we do not! We were never, and never will be a spineless people that allow civilians to go ‘missing’ or the indiscriminate (or for that matter, even discriminate) bombing of civilian (or even militant) population.
Pakistani nation have the task to out legitimize Taliban as much as they have the responsibility to reject American presence on our soil.
And learning from Vietnam, we can do it with a strong sense of opinion and without involving arms.
We are running out of time. Hopefully ideals like that of Eqbal Ahmed will be given due heed in due time.
That’s our only chance.