Eqbal Ahmad

Pakistani writer, journalist, anti-war activist

Eqbal Ahmad (1933 – 11 May 1999) was a Pakistani political scientist, writer and academic known for his anti-war activism.


  • I think we should begin by recognizing that Pakistani and Indian rulers are caught in medieval militaristic minds. They are no more modern than the Clintons and the Bushes, who see power in terms of military prowess. We are living in modern times throughout the world and yet are dominated by medieval minds.
    • Confronting Empire (2017)[2000], p. 93.
  • …When people think of Islam and Muslims, they think normally of places like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and not of places like India and Indonesia. Secondly, when they think of fundamentalism, they always think of Islam and Muslims and not of other very menacing fundamentalist movements, such as the Hindu fundamentalists in India or the Christian fundamentalists in Serbia. So Islam is thought of in more than one distorted way… Similarly, quite frankly, if Ronald Reagan and his connections with the Moral Majority movement had existed in Egypt, we would clearly see them typed as fundamentalists, which they were. Ronald Reagan's rhetoric and policies to a lesser extent bore very much the stamp of Christian fundamentalists. The conviction, for example, that the Soviet Union was an "evil empire." It was a religious concept of evil empire that bore a certain similarity to Ayatollah Khomeini's description of the United States as the "Satanic Empire." But we don't quite see those similarities, do we?
  • The moment you find that your truth clashes with what is being peddled as their truth, intervene. So learn, look for alternative sources, for without alternative sources, without pluralism, there is no democracy. But at the same time, without intervention of the public into power, without balances, without checks, there is no democracy. The notion of checks and balances has been reduced by the powerful discourse, by the hegemonious discourse, to the relationship of the Congress, the Executive and the Supreme Court. It has been formalized. Democracy consists of understanding it in broader terms. Checks and balances consist of public intervening to check and balance out the hegemonious, the dominant discourse of the media, the speeches of the politicians, the falsehoods that are being given to us as truths. Intervention is very important. The reason I am emphasizing intervention is that only when you get into the habit of intervening would you find the compulsion to know the truth.
  • I know that I shall be condemned for my position. For someone who is facing a serious trial in America, it is not easy to confront one's own government. Yet it is not possible for me to oppose American crimes in Southeast Asia or Indian occupation of Kashmir while accepting the crimes that my government is committing against the people of East Pakistan. Although I mourn the death of Biharis by Bengali vigilantes, and condemn the irresponsibilities of the Awami League, I am not willing to equate their actions with that of the government and the criminal acts of an organized, professional army…I do not know if my position would at all contribute to a humane settlement. Given the fact that our government is neither accountable to the public nor sensitive to the opinion of mankind, our protest may have no effect until this regime has exhausted all its assets and taken the country down the road to moral, political, and economic bankruptcy. However, lack of success does not justify the crime of silence in the face of criminal, arbitrary power.
  • Vietnam is also the only country in which the United States gave substantial support to a colonial power in a war of independence. This could not have endeared America to the Vietnamese people. Then in the “Southern zone” America replaced France. To most Vietnamese the present war, therefore, is a continuation of the struggle for independence. I know how Asians feel about America’s action. They call it neo-colonialism; some think it is imperialism. I know this is very wrong because Americans are naturally sympathetic to peoples’ struggles for freedom and justice, and they would like to help if they could. I prefer the term “maternalism” for American policy in countries like Vietnam, because it reminds me of the story of an elephant who, as she strolled benignly in the jungle, stepped on a mother partridge and killed her. When she noticed the orphaned siblings, tears filled the kind elephant’s eyes. “Ah, I too have maternal instincts,” she said turning to the orphans, and sat on them.
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