Former ISI chief Hamid Gul dies of brain haemorrhage

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 16, 2015 15:10 IST
Lt Gen (Retd) Hamid Gul passes away (Photo courtesy: @PakistanTV1)

Former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul, who played a key role in fomenting the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and was a close associate of jihadi leaders such as Hafiz Saeed, has died at the age of 78.

Gul headed the powerful spy agency during 1987-89, when the ISI worked closely with the CIA to back Afghan mujahideen against Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

He suffered a brain haemorrhage and died in a military hospital in Murree, a popular tourist resort near Islamabad late on Saturday, the Pakistani media reported. Doctors could not revive him, his daughter Uzma was quoted as saying.

Gul appeared frequently on television channels in Pakistan and India, espousing his hardline views and railing against India and the US. He was also a key leader of the Defa-e-Pakistan Council, a grouping of 40 terrorist and extremist groups such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawah that are considered close to the country’s security establishment.

Sad to learn of Gen Hameed Gul's death. Whether one agreed with his views or not, he was a patriot. Condolences & prayers go to the family.

The spymaster was instrumental in starting the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989 by diverting mujahideen who participated in the Soviet war to the Kashmir Valley. He was also accused of providing funds and weapons to the mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir.

Gul also played a part in the rise of the Taliban and was sometimes referred to as the “father of the Taliban”. In an interview with the BBC in 2010, Gul had remarked: "America is history, (then Afghan President Hamid) Karzai is history, the Taliban are the future."

He was also accused by the US of having ties with al Qaeda. Gul’s detractors accused him of peddling bizarre conspiracy theories and working to weaken Pakistan’s civilian governments, which he often criticised.

Though Gul had worked closely with the CIA during the Soviet-Afghan war, he became a bitter critic of the US and often defended al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and other jihadi leaders. He was also a strong proponent of the Pakistani security establishment’s policy of using jihadi groups against India.

During his stint as the ISI chief, Gul meddled in Pakistan’s politics by playing a key role in the formation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), a coalition of nine right-wing parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League and the Jamaat-e-Islami that was propped up by the army to prevent the Pakistan People’s Party from winning the 1988 general election.

Though the IJI did not win the 1988 polls, its strong performance in Punjab propelled the rise of Nawaz Sharif, a protégé of military dictator Zia-ul-Haq who went on to become the chief minister of Punjab before leading the IJI to victory in the 1990 general election.

In an interview with DawnNews in 2012, Gul acknowledged his role in creating the IJI. He credited former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg with helping create the alliance and said the Pakistan Army “cannot be controlled by politicians”.

Born on November 20, 1936 in Sargodha district of Punjab, he got his early education at a school in his village. After a brief college education, he joined the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul in Abbottabad and was commissioned in the army in 1956. He fought in the 1965 war against India.

During 1972-76, Gul served directly under Zia ul-Haq as a battalion commander, and then as commander of the II Corps at Multan. He was promoted to brigadier in 1978 and steadily rose to be the Martial Law Administrator of Bahawalpur and then commander of the 1st Armoured Division in Multan in 1982.

After his stint in the ISI, he retired from the army in 1992 but continued to be closely associated with the security establishment and jihadi groups.

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