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Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 18:13:54 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: PAKISTAN: Eqbal Ahmed, World Renowned Activist Scholar, Dies
Article: 64210
Message-ID: <bulk.18242.19990517122235@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 525.0 **/
** Topic: PAKISTAN: Eqbal Ahmed, World Renowned Activist Scholar, Dies **
** Written 10:06 PM May 12, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
*** 12-May-99 ***

Eqbal Ahmed, World Renowned Activist Scholar, Dies

By Beena Sarwar, IPS
12 May 1999

LAHORE, May 12 (IPS) - Eqbal Ahmed, a scholar and political analyst, who was active in the Civil Right movement in the United States and worked with Frantz Fanon during the liberation war in Algeria against the French, passed away in Pakistan.

Ahmed, who was born in Bihar state, India and in 1947 left with his brothers for the newly created state of Pakistan, died early Tuesday in an Islamabad-hospital where he was operated upon on May 7 for cancer of the colon and suffered two heart attacks.

He was buried on Wednesday morning in the presence of his family, many friends and admirers even as condolence messages poured in from all over the world.

"In Eqbal's death, Pakistan has lost possibly its most prescient and insightful observer of society and politics," wrote the 'Dawn', the country's oldest English-language newspaper in a report on the front-page.

"A chapter in my life__and in the life of many of his admirers and well-wishers__ended today with the passing away of Dr Eqbal Ahmed," said an admirer.

Among his close personal friends outside Pakistan are Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Edward W. Said, all radical academics like Ahmed whose teaching career spanned from Princeton to the University of Illinois, Cornell and Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts from where he retired in October 1997.

In his honour the college established the 'Eqbal Ahmed Distinguished Lecture Programme'. U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan delivered the first lecture at Hampshire College in September 1998.

Ahmed who taught International Relations and Middle Eastern studies was a prominent and valued supporter of the cause of the Palestinian people, although like his close friend Said he opposed the surrender of the Palestinian people's interests under the "guise" of the Oslo Peace Process.

He moved back to Pakistan with the return of democratic rule in the country after the sudden death in 1988 of General Ziaul Haq, the last of Pakistan's string of military rulers, with dreams of building a new Pakistan.

He was "always tied by indissoluble bonds to Pakistan," wrote the 'Dawn', "although deeply disappointed by the steady decline of Pakistan society through military dictatorships into an era of thieving politicians ..."

Ahmed, 67, chronicled the tumult in Pakistan, in South Asia and around the world in weekly columns that he wrote for the 'Dawn' (Karachi), Al-Ahram (Cairo), Al-Hayat (London), and 'Frontline' (Madras).

His work in Pakistan consisted chiefly of trying to bridge the differences with India on the issues of Kashmir and nuclear weapons, of which he was an outspoken critic.

"I do not believe in nuclear weapons ... The privileges of nuclear club membership are not clear to me or to anyone. If it is clear to somebody, nobody has explained it to me," he said in an interview reprinted in a recent issue of 'Himal South Asia'.

"The only way you can explain India's decision (to conduct nuclear tests last May) is this particular brand of nationalism which the BJP (ruling party) represents ... Pakistan had a choice. They could have kept quiet about it (nuclear capability) and that would have been more effective," he explained.

He was equally critical of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's proposed amendment of the Constitution to Islamise the legal system describing it as a "typical use of religion for purposes that are less than moral".

Sharif pulled Islam out of the closet and started the process of Islamisaton because even after two years in power he had not improved the economy, Pakistan's security after the nuclear tests or resolved the basic disputes with India, Ahmed felt.

"In modern times Islam has been in Pakistan and in other Muslim countries a refuge for weak and scoundrel regimes and rulers," he said, while describing the Taliban in Afghanistan "as retrograde a group as it is possible to find."

Yet the United States through its proxy Pakistan have picked "the most murderous, by far the most crazy, of Islamic fundamentalist groups, the Taliban, to ensure the safety of the pipelines" from Central Asia being laid by U.S corporations.

"These people (Taliban) are anti-women, anti-music, anti- life, and some of the highest officials of the United States were visiting them and talking to them. The general impression is that the U.S has been supporting them," he said.

"The U.S concern is not who is fundamentalist and who is progressive, who treats women nicely and who treats them badly. The issue is, who is more likely to ensure the safety of the oil and gas resources," he added.

In his opinion, not Iran's but Saudi Arabia's Islamic government has been "by far the most fundamental in the history of Islam until the Taliban came along ... but it has been the ally of the U.S since 1932, and nobody has questioned it."

Its for observations like this that Ahmed found himself ostracised at Cornell after he argued in a speech to a group of students that the Six Day Arab-Israeli war in 1967 was more than what the media was portraying.

Still later in 1971, he was prosecuted along with six others, dubbed the "Harrisburg Seven", on the trumped-up charge of trying to kidnap Henry Kissinger -- a case that was dismissed.

Ahmed's death will be mourned by people in Pakistan, South Asia, the Arab world, the United States and Europe. (END/IPS/bs/an/rdr/99)

Origin: New Delhi/PAKISTAN/

[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) All rights reserved

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