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Tributes to ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul may irk India, Afghanistan

world Updated: Aug 16, 2015 15:35 IST
Hamid Gul death

In this file photo taken on February 5, 2014, former chief of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Hameed Gul attends the Kashmir Solidarity Day rally in Islamabad. Pakistan's former spymaster Hamid Gul, who trained Afghan resistance fighters against the Soviets and helped create the Taliban, has died late on August 15, 2015, at the age of 79. (AFP Photo/Aamir Qureshi)

Tributes that poured in on Sunday for former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Hamid Gul after his death are expected to infuriate Pakistan's neighbours since he spent the last few decades promoting Islamic militancy in India and Afghanistan.

"(Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif has expressed his heartfelt condolences over the sad demise of ... Hamid Gul," the ruling party's media office said on Twitter. "The prime minister prayed eternal peace for the departed soul and said that may God bless the deceased."

Legislator Arif Alvi tweeted that Gul had died on Saturday night of a brain haemorrhage at age 78 and called him "a great man".

The tributes will irk Afghanistan and India, who saw Gul as Pakistan's most senior and vocal proponent of militancy in their territory.

Gul worked closely with US and Saudi officials to strengthen Afghan fighters against the Soviet military when he headed the feared military intelligence agency, ISI, from 1987 to 1989. Some of those fighters later joined the Taliban insurgency.

Towards the end of his posting, officials began diverting men and guns from the Afghan war towards budding militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, founded in 1990 as a separatist movement in Kashmir.

After Gul retired, he frequently went on television to defend the Taliban and Kashmiri militants and blame a Jewish conspiracy for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

His death has already elicited harsh responses from Afghanistani officials, with the former deputy foreign minister tweeting that the "real" Mullah Omar has died, a reference to his role in the creation of the Taliban.

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Former ISI chief Hamid Gul dies of brain haemorrhage