Eqbal Ahmad

Eqal Ahmad was born in the village of Irki in Bihar, India in 1933 or 1934. A few years later, his father was murdered over a land dispute, while the young Eqbal lay beside him. During the partition of India in 1947, he and his elder brothers migrated to Pakistan.

Ahmad graduated from Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1951 with a degree in economics. After serving briefly as an army officer, he enrolled at Occidental College in California as a Rotary Fellow in American History in 1957. From 1958 to 1960, he studied political science and middle eastern history at Princeton, later earning his PhD.

From 1960 to 1963, Ahmad lived in North Africa, working primarily in Algeria, where he joined the National Liberation Front and worked with Frantz Fanon. He was a member of the Algerian delegation to peace talks at Evian.

A prolific writer and journalist, Eqbal was widely consulted by revolutionaries, journalists, activist leaders and policymakers around the world.

When he returned to the United States, Ahmad taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago (1964 – 1965) and Cornell University in the school of Labour Relations (1965 – 1968). During these years, he became known as “one of the earliest and most vocal opponents of American policies in Vietnam and Cambodia”. In 1969, he married the teacher and writer Julie Diamond. From 1968 to 1972, he was a fellow at the Adlai Stevenson Institute in Chicago.

In 1971, Ahmad was indicted with the anti-war Catholic priests, Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, along with four other Catholic pacifists, on charges of conspiracy to kidnap Henry Kissinger. After fifty-nine hours of deliberations, the jury declared a mistrial.

From 1972 to 1982, Ahmad was Senior Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. From 1973 to 1975, he served as the first director of its overseas affiliate, the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam.

In 1982, Ahmad joined the faculty at Hampshire College, in Amherst Massachusetts, where he taught world politics and political science.

In the early 1990’s he was promised a parcel of land in Pakistan by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government to build an independent, alternative university, named Khaldunia. The offer never turned into reality.

A prolific writer and journalist, Eqbal was widely consulted by revolutionaries, journalists, activist leaders and policymakers around the world. He was an editor of the journal Race and Class, contributing editor of Middle East Report and L’Economiste du Tiers Monde, co-founder of Pakistan Forum, and an editorial board member of Arab Studies Quarterly. Ahmad was “that rare thing, an intellectual unintimidated by power or authority, a companion in arms to such diverse figures as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Richard Falk, Fred Jameson, Alexander Cockburn and Daniel Berrigan.”

Upon his retirement from Hampshire in 1997, he settled permanently in Pakistan, where he continued to write a weekly column, for Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest English language newspaper. Eqbal died in Islamabad on May 11, 1999, of heart failure following surgery for colon cancer, diagnosed just one week before.

Read more about Eqbal Ahmad on Wikipedia.