Hamid Gul

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Hamid Gul
حمید گل
Hamid Gul portrait.jpg
8th Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence
In office
29 March 1987 – 27 May 1989
Preceded byAkhtar Abdur Rahman
Succeeded byShamsur Rahman Kallu
Corps Commander II Corps,Multan
In office
May 1989 – January 1992
Director-General of Military Intelligence
In office
Personal details
Born(1936-11-20)20 November 1936
Sargodha, Punjab, British India
(present-day Punjab, Pakistan)
Died15 August 2015(2015-08-15) (aged 78)
Murree, Punjab, Pakistan
Alma materPakistan Military Academy
Government College University, Lahore
OccupationRetired army officer and former spymaster
Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military)
Military service
Allegiance Pakistan
Branch/service Pakistan Army
Years of service1956–1993
RankOF-8 PakistanArmy.svg Lieutenant General
Unit19th Lancers, Army Armoured Corps
Commands1st Armoured Division, Multan
DG Military Intelligence (DGMI)
DG Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
II Strike Corps, Multan
Battles/warsIndo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Soviet–Afghan War
Civil war in Afghanistan (1989–1992)
Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir

Hamid Gul (Pashto: حامد ګل‎; Punjabi and Urdu: حمید گل‎‎; 20 November 1936 – 15 August 2015) HI(M), SBt, was a three-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army and defence analyst. 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 in return for funds and weapons from the USA, during the Soviet–Afghan War, in co-operation with the CIA.[1]

In addition, Gul was widely credited for expanding covert support to Kashmiri nationalist groups against neighbouring rival India in the disputed Kashmir region from 1989,[2] diverting focus from the fallout of the Soviet war. Gul earned a reputation as a "Godfather" of Pakistani geostrategic policies.[3][4] For his role against India, he has been considered by A. S. Dulat, former director of the R&AW, as "the most infamous ISI chief in Indian eyes."[5] Following an escalation of the Kashmir militancy in India and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, he was even accused by the United States and India of having ties to Islamic terrorist groups, notably Al-Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.[6]

In 1988 Gul also played a role in the creation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, a conservative political alliance formed to oppose the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

On 15 August 2015, he died after suffering a brain haemorrhage.[7][8]

Early life[edit]

Gul was born on 20 November 1936 to Muhammad Khan in Sargodha, Punjab, British Raj (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 Pashtuns and belonged to the Yusufzai tribe, migrated from Swat(Buner), later settling in Sargodha in Punjab.[9]

Army career[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Gul was then sent to GHQ as the Director-General or DG Military Intelligence (DGMI)[10] 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.[citation needed]

General Asif Nawaz upon taking the reins of Pakistan Army in August 1991, had transferred Gul 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.[11]

ISI Director-General (1987–1989)[edit]

Afghanistan and the Soviet war[edit]

During his time as head of the ISI amid the Soviet–Afghan War, 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.[12] 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[edit]

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[13] 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.[14]

Kashmir and India[edit]

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."[15]


Even if the ISI, under General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, was already aiming beyond the region, for instance establishing contacts with jihadi groups like the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, it was under Hamid Gul that the ISI took a definitely pan-Islamist turn, as he not only wished for a Pakistan-led Islamic coalition against India, in his own words "a strategic depth concept that links Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan in an alliance" which "would be a jeweled Mughal dagger pointed at the Hindu heart", but also called for what he perceived as the liberation of persecuted Muslim groups all over the world, such as the Eritreans, Bosniaks, Rohingyas, Uzbeks and Uighurs.[16]

At the time of his death, journalist Abbas Nasir, while offering a critical review of his life and career, said that "commitment to jihad - to an Islamic revolution transcending national boundaries, was such that he dreamed one day the "green Islamic flag" would flutter not just over Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also over territories represented by the (former Soviet Union) Central Asian republics."[17]

Post-Soviet war fallout[edit]

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.[15] 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."[18]

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.[19] Only days after the September 11 attacks, Gul also stated his belief that the attacks were "clearly an inside job".[20][21][22]

Post-retirement career[edit]

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.'[23]

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.[24]

He turned against the restored Supreme Court chief justice after a bench allowed Musharraf to contest the elections in uniform.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27]

Gul acknowledged his affiliation with Ummah Tameer-e-Nau.[28] 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.[29][30]

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.[31] According to the Daily Telegraph, following the death of Osama bin Laden, Gul opined that US forces had killed him in Afghanistan and moved the body to Abbottabad to humiliate Pakistan.[32]


His father was a farmer who served in the British Army.[33] He was survived by his wife, who died in October 2019.[34] He had two sons, Omer and Abdullah, and a daughter, Uzma.[35] His son, Abdullah Gul, holds the office of Chairman Tehreek-e-Jawanan Pakistan and Kashmir (TJP). His daughter Uzma is the Chairperson Jammu Kashmir Solidarity Movement & Pak Kashmir Women Alliance.[citation needed]


Gul's last resting place at Army Graveyard Rawalpindi

Hamid Gul suffered a haemorrhagic stroke in Murree. According to reports, he had been suffering from high blood pressure and headaches for some time.[36] His death was condoled by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and other high officials.[37] Gul is buried at the army cemetery in Westridge, Rawalpindi.

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.[32]


  • Īfāʼe ʻahd (ايفائے عهد), Lahore : ʻIlm va ʻIrfān Publishers, 2012, 192 p. An account of various political changes in Pakistan; struggles of various forces to destabalize Pakistan and its security. Arranged by Mubīn G̲h̲aznavī.
  • Ek Janral se inṭarviyū (ايک جنرل سے انٹرويو), Lahore : ʻIlm va ʻIrfān Publishers, 2013, 200 p. Collection of interviews arranged by Mubīn G̲h̲aznavī.


  1. ^ Afghanistan War Infoplease.com, 22 July 2007
  2. ^ "Bhutto Conspiracy Theories Fill the Air" Time, 28 December 2007
  3. ^ "Former ISI chief Hamid Gul passes away in Murree – The Express Tribune". 16 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Ex-Pakistan spy chief urges talks with Mullah Omar" Archived 11 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine CNN, 12 March 2010
  5. ^ "A joint venture of spooks", Business Recorder. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b Rondeaux, Candace (9 December 2008). "Former Pakistani Intelligence Official Denies Aiding Group Tied to Mumbai Siege". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ "The legacy of Pakistan's loved and loathed Hamid Gul". Al Jazeera.
  8. ^ Masood, Salman (16 August 2015). "Hamid Gul, 78, Dies; Backed Militants in Leading Pakistan Spy Agency". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "YouTube" – via YouTube.
  10. ^ Hamid Hussain, "Undercover Chaos – Role of Pakistani Armed Forces Intelligence Agencies in Domestic Arena" Archived 24 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine Defence Journal, December 2005
  11. ^ Ayaz Amir, "Another myth of independence" Dawn, 23 May 2003
  12. ^ "Rebels without a cause". PBS. 29 August 1989. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  13. ^ Hameed Gul admits he formed IJI Archived 1 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, The News (Pakistan), 30 August 2009
  14. ^ Editorial: What the generals must apologise for Daily Times, 1 February 2008
  15. ^ a b 'We are walking into the American trap' Rediff.com, 12 February 2004
  16. ^ Owen L. Sirrs, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate: Covert action and internal operations, Routledge (2016), p. 133
  17. ^ Abbas Nasir (17 August 2015), "The legacy of Pakistan's loved and loathed Hamid Gul", Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  18. ^ God will destroy America, says Hamid Gul Daily Times, 30 August 2003
  19. ^ Hamid Gul Interview with Tehelka.com Robert-fisk.com, 14 September 2001
  20. ^ "UPI interview with Hamid Gul".
  21. ^ Afghanistan Pakistan Imbroglio – Guest: General Hamid Gul. September 1, 2010., soundcloud.com. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  22. ^ Ten Topics/Ten Shows, gunsandbutter.org. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  23. ^ Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam by Zahid Hussain, Columbia University Press, 2007, page 81-82.
  24. ^ Pakistan dictator lashes at 'plotters' The Australian, 19 March 2007
  25. ^ "Criticalppp". criticalppp.com. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011.
  26. ^ Shakeel, Syed Faisal PPP demands probe based on Benazir’s letter Dawn (Pakistan), 30 December 2007
  27. ^ Al Jazeera – Reactions To Pakistan Emergency Al Jazeera, 4 November 2007
  28. ^ Former Pakistani Official Denies Links to Lashkar, The Washington Post, 9 December 2008
  29. ^ "Hamid Gul & LeT's Chachu may get official terrorist tag". The Economic Times. 6 December 2008.
  30. ^ "Hamid Gul: Taliban is the future". Al Jazeera. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  31. ^ "Zardari calls Hamid Gul political ideologue of terror rather than a physical supporter". The Nation. 15 December 2008. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013.
  32. ^ a b "General Hamid Gul, Pakistan spymaster – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 17 August 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  33. ^ Legg, Paul (27 August 2015). "Hamid Gul obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  34. ^ "Wife of Gen (retd) Hamid Gul passes away". The News. 19 October 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  35. ^ "Hamid Gul obituary". The Guardian. 27 August 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  36. ^ "Former ISI chief Lt-Gen (Retd) Hamid Gul passes away". Raheel Amer. Samaa TV. 15 August 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  37. ^ "Ex-ISI chief, strategist Hamid Gul is no more – The Express Tribune". 16 August 2015.

External links[edit]


  • 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
Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence
Succeeded by