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Hamid Gul

Hamid Gul
حمید گل
Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence
In office
29 March 1987 – 4 October 1989
Preceded by Akhtar Abdur Rahman
Succeeded by Shamsur Rahman Kallu
Personal details
Born (1936-11-20)20 November 1936
Sargodha, British Punjab, British Indian Empire
Died 15 August 2015(2015-08-15) (aged 78)
Murree, Punjab, Pakistan
Citizenship Pakistani
Alma mater Pakistan Military Academy
Government College University, Lahore
Occupation Retired army officer and former spymaster
Religion Islam
Awards Sitara-e-Basalat
Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military)
Military service
Allegiance  Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
Years of service 1956–1992
Rank Lieutenant General
Unit 19th Lancers, Army Armoured Corps
Commands 1st Armoured Division, Multan
DG Military Intelligence (DGMI)
DG Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
II Strike Corps, Multan
Battles/wars Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Battle of Jalalabad
Afghanistan War of 1989
Operation Rakhshak

Lieutenant-General (R) Hamid Gul (Urdu: حمید گل‎‎; 20 November 1936 – 15 August 2015) HI(M), SBt, was a three-star general in the Pakistan Army, defence analyst and a former spymaster. Gul was notable for serving as the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, between 1987 and 1989. During his tenure, Gul played an instrumental role in directing ISI support to Afghan resistance groups against Soviet forces during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, in cooperation with the CIA.[1] Among his possessions was a piece of the Berlin Wall, gifted to him by the Germans for "delivering the first blow" to the Soviet Union.[2]

Gul was also widely credited for expanding covert support to Kashmiri nationalist groups against neighbouring rival India in the disputed Kashmir region from 1989,[3] diverting focus from the fallout of the Soviet war. Gul earned a reputation as a "Godfather" of Pakistani geostrategic policies.[4][5] Following an escalation of the Kashmir militancy in India and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, he remained a controversial figure even after retirement, and was accused by the United States of having ties to shady groups. However, Gul denied the allegations.[6] Gul's tenure as the director of the ISI coincided with Benazir Bhutto's term as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Later, Gul played a role in the establishment of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, a conservative political alliance formed to oppose Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

On August 15, 2015, he died after suffering a brain hemorrhage.


  • Early life 1
  • Army career 2
  • ISI Director-General (1987–1989) 3
    • Afghanistan and the Soviet war 3.1
    • Domestic politics 3.2
    • Kashmir and India 3.3
    • Iran 3.4
  • Post-Soviet war fallout 4
  • Post-retirement career 5
  • Death 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8
  • Bibliography 9

Early life

Gul was born on 20 November 1936 to Muhammad Khan in Sargodha of Punjab, in what was then British India (now Pakistan). He got his early education from a school in his village. He briefly got admission in Government College Lahore, before being admitted to Pakistan Military Academy Kakul. Gul's family were Pathans of Punjab and belonged to the Yusufzai tribe, who originated from Swat and migrated to Lahore, later settling in Sargodha in Punjab.[7]

Army career

Hamid Gul was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in October 1956 with the 18th PMA Long Course in the 19th Lancers regiment of the Armoured Corps. He was a squadron commander during the 1965 war with India. He attended the Command and Staff College Quetta in 1968-69. During 1972–1976, Gul directly served under General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq as a battalion commander, and then as Staff Colonel, when General Zia was GOC, 1st Armoured Division and Commander, II Corps at Multan. Thus, Gul had already cemented his ties with General Zia by serving under him when both were officers in the Armoured regiments of the II Corps. Gul was promoted to Brigadier in 1978 and steadily rose to be the Martial Law Administrator of Bahawalpur and then the Commander of the 1st Armoured Division, Multan in 1982, his appointments expressly wished by Zia himself.

Gul was then sent to GHQ as the Director-General or DG Military Intelligence (DGMI)[8] under General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq who then nominated him to be the ISI chief succeeding General Akhtar Abdur Rahman in March 1987. He was later replaced as the ISI commander by PM Benazir Bhutto in May 1989 and Gul was transferred as the commander, II Corps in Multan. In this capacity, Gul conducted the Zarb-e-Momin military exercise in November–December 1989, the biggest Pakistani Armed Forces show of muscle since 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

General Asif Nawaz upon taking the reins of Pakistan Army in August 1991, had Gul transferred as the DG Heavy Industries Taxila. A menial job compared to Gul's stature, Gul refused to take the assignment, an act for which he was retired from the army.[9]

ISI Director-General (1987–1989)

Afghanistan and the Soviet war

During his time as head of the ISI amid the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Gul was said to have planned and executed the operation to capture Jalalabad from the Soviet-backed Afghan army in the spring of 1989. This switch to conventional warfare was seen as a mistake by some since the mujahideen did not have the capacity to capture a major city, and the battle did not yield expected ground results. However, the Pakistani army was intent on installing a resistance-backed government in Afghanistan, with Jalalabad as their provisional capital, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf as Prime Minister, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as Foreign Minister.

Contrary to Pakistani expectations, this battle proved that the Afghan army could fight without Soviet help, and greatly increased the confidence of government supporters. Conversely, the morale of the mujahideen involved in the attack slumped and many local commanders of Hekmatyar and Sayyaf concluded truces with the government.[10] In the words of Brigadier Mohammad Yousef, an officer of the ISI, "the jihad [meaning the plans for Hekmatyar to be installed as prime minister] never recovered from Jalalabad". As a result of this failure, Hamid Gul was sacked by Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and replaced by Shamsur Rahman Kallu, who pursued a more classical policy of support to the rebels fighting in Afghanistan.

Domestic politics

During his tenure as ISI chief in 1988, General Gul successfully gathered conservative politicians and helped them create Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), a centre-right conservative coalition united against the left-leaning Pakistan Peoples Party. Gul later acknowledged his role in IJI's formation in various interviews[11] for which he was harshly rebuked in one of the editorials of a major Pakistani newspaper, which asked the general to apologise first to the PPP for having done so and after that, apologising for a lack of intelligence because the IJI could not maintain its two-thirds majority for long.[12]

Kashmir and India

According to accusations by Indian commentator B Raman, Gul actively backed Khalistani militants. "When Bhutto became prime minister in 1988", Raman says, "Gul justified backing these insurgents as the only way of pre-empting a fresh Indian threat to Pakistan's territorial integrity. When she asked him to stop playing that card, he reportedly told her: Madam, keeping Punjab destabilized is equivalent to the Pakistan army having an extra division at no cost to the taxpayers." "Gul strongly advocated supporting indigenous Kashmiri groups", adds Raman, "but was against infiltrating Pakistani and Afghan mercenaries into Jammu and Kashmir. He believed Pakistan would play into India's hands by doing so."[13]


In Islamabad, Gul asked for Iran to explain its bona fides regarding the pact signed with India to jointly counter terrorism. According to him, "Iran should come clear on the nature of agreement with India. Otherwise this will create doubts and apprehensions in Muslim Ummah that Iran helps RAW in putting down Kashmir jihad". He also added that in case doubts about the agreement came true and Iran was seen as working with India against "Kashmir freedom struggle", then it would be concluded that the country also supports Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency.[14]

Post-Soviet war fallout

General Gul worked closely with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when he was the ISI head. However, he became dispassionate with the United States after it turned its back on Afghanistan following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, as the United States had promised to help build a prosperous Afghanistan.[13] He was further disconcerted when the USA began punishing Pakistan with economic and military sanctions for its secret nuclear program. General Gul then went on to declare that "the Muslim world must stand united to confront the U.S. in its so-called War on Terrorism, which is in reality a war against Muslims. Let's destroy America wherever its troops are trapped."[15]

General Gul personally met Osama Bin Laden in 1993 and refused to label him a terrorist unless and until irrefutable evidence was provided linking him to alleged acts of terrorism.[16] Only days after the September 11 attacks, Gul also stated his belief that the attacks were "clearly an inside job". [17]

Post-retirement career

According to Zahid Hussain, in his book Frontline Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul and former Army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg were part of the 9 January 2001 Darul Uloom Haqqania Islamic conference held near Peshawar, which was also attended by 300 leaders representing various Islamic groups. The meeting declared it a religious duty of Muslims all over the world to protect the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and the Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden it was hosting, whom they considered as a 'great Muslim warrior.'[18] He has since gone on to praise Pakistan for hiding Bin Laden for nine years, in a television interview with Times Now.[19]

On 12 March 2007, Gul marched alongside activists from the liberal democratic parties and retired former senior military officers against General Pervez Musharraf. General Gul faced down riot police when they tried to arrest him at a rally outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad protesting against attempts to dismiss Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.[20]

He turned against the restored Supreme Court chief justice after a bench allowed Musharraf to contest the elections in uniform.[21]

Days after the 2007 Karachi bombings, Benazir Bhutto in a letter to President Musharaf written on 16 October 2007 named Hamid Gul as one of the four persons including the current Intelligence Bureau (IB) Chief Ijaz Shah, the then chief minister of Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, then chief minister of Sindh Arbab Ghulam Rahim, she suspected were behind the attacks.[22] Gul responded furiously to these claims. He was arrested on 4 November by the military police in Islamabad during President Pervez Musharraf's declared state of emergency.[23]

Gul acknowledged his affiliation with Ummah Tameer-e-Nau.[24] Due to his links to the group, banned by the US Department of State, the United States government prompted Gul's name in a list of 4 former ISI officers for inclusion in the list of international terrorists that was sent to UN Secretary General, but China refused.[25]

In 2008 Gul was informed by a senior official in Pakistan's Foreign Ministry that he had been placed on a U.S. watch list of "global terrorists", along with several others. He was shown a U.S. document that detailed several charges against him, including allegations that he had ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Gul rejected these allegations.[6] On 14 December 2008, President Asif Ali Zardari in an interview with Newsweek described Hamid Gul as a "political ideologue" of terror rather than a physical supporter.[26] According to the Daily Telegraph, following the death of Osama bin Laden, Gul helped "spread a rumour" that US forces had killed him in Afghanistan and moved the body to Abbottabad to humiliate Pakistan.[2]


Gul died on 15 August 2015 from brain hemorrhage. He was vacationing and celebrating Pakistan's Independence Day with family in Murree. Late evening, Gul's health condition worsened and he was shifted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Murree, where he was later pronounced dead. According to reports, he had been suffering from high blood pressure and headaches for some time.[27][28] His death was condoled by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and other high officials.[29] Gul is burried at the army cemetery in Westridge, Rawalpindi.


  1. ^ Afghanistan War, 22 July 2007
  2. ^ a b "General Hamid Gul, Pakistan spymaster - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 17 August 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Bhutto Conspiracy Theories Fill the Air" Time Magazine, 28 December 2007
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Ex-Pakistan spy chief urges talks with Mullah Omar" CNN, 12 March 2010
  6. ^ a b Former Pakistani intelligence official denies aiding group tied to Mumbai siege, Candace Rondeaux, Washington Post, 09-Dec-2008
  7. ^
  8. ^ Hamid Hussain, "Undercover Chaos – Role of Pakistani Armed Forces Intelligence Agencies in Domestic Arena" Defence Journal, December 2005
  9. ^ Ayaz Amir, "Another myth of independence" Dawn, 23 May 2003
  10. ^ "Rebels without a cause".  
  11. ^ Hameed Gul admits he formed IJI, The News (Pakistan), 30 August 2009
  12. ^ Editorial: What the generals must apologise for Daily Times, 1 February 2008
  13. ^ a b 'We are walking into the American trap', 12 February 2004
  14. ^ ISI in Bangladesh, 1 October 2001
  15. ^ God will destroy America, says Hamid Gul Daily Times, 30 August 2003
  16. ^ Hamid Gul Interview with, 14 September 2001
  17. ^ UPI news 26 September 2001
  18. ^ Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam by Zahid Hussain, Columbia University Press, 2007, page 81-82.
  19. ^ Ghosh, Shubham (10 July 2013) Former ISI chief lauds Pak for hiding Osama for 9 yrs
  20. ^ Pakistan dictator lashes at 'plotters' The Australian, 19 March 2007
  21. ^
  22. ^ Shakeel, Syed Faisal PPP demands probe based on Benazir’s letter Dawn Newspaper, 30 December 2007
  23. ^ Al Jazeera – Reactions To Pakistan Emergency Al Jazeera English, 4 November 2007
  24. ^ Former Pakistani Official Denies Links to Lashkar, The Washington Post, 2008-12-09
  25. ^ "Hamid Gul & LeT’s Chachu may get official terrorist tag". The Economic Times. 6 December 2008. 
  26. ^ "Zardari calls Hamid Gul political ideologue of terror rather than a physical supporter.". The Nation. 15 December 2008. 
  27. ^ "Former ISI chief Lt-Gen (Retd) Hamid Gul passes away". Raheel Amer.  
  28. ^
  29. ^ Ex-ISI chief strategist Hamid Gul is no more

External links

  • Official website of Hamid Gul
  • Profile of Hamid Gul, website, Retrieved 16 August 2015
  • Afghan war portraits taken by photographer Declan Walsh of Getty Images, Gul's home in Rawalpindi, The Guardian Newspaper, 25 July 2010, Retrieved 16 August 2015
  • Stein, Jeff. "The audacity of Hamid Gul." The Washington Post. 26 July 2010.
  • "Gulled by Hamid Gul." The Washington Times. Friday 4 December 2009.
  • [2] 2007 interview with Hamid Gul, the spy who went into the cold


  • Zahid Hussain. Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
  • Husain Haqqani. Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005.
Military offices
Preceded by
Akhtar Abdur Rahman
Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence
Succeeded by
Shamsur Rahman Kallu
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