Pakistan's best known former ISI chief, General Hamid Gul passed away in the evening of August 15, 2015. He was well known for his support of the Afghan jihad as well as the struggle of the Kashmiris to overthrow the yoke of Indian imperialism. He was an outspoken critic of Western policy and a strategic analyst expressing his views without fear or favor.
August 16, 2015, 09:53 DST
One of Pakistan’s most highly decorated military officers, Lieutenant General (retired) Hamid Gul, passed away late Saturday evening (Pakistan time) because of a massive brain hemorrhage. Inna lil Lah-e wa inna Ilayh-e rajioon!
General Gul was in Murree, the hill station town about 40 km north of Islamabad. He was rushed to the CMH in Murree but did not survive. He was 78. Following his death, his body was transferred to his house in Rawalpindi prior to burial in the Military Cemetery with full military honors. His son Abdullah rushed back from Turkey while his other son was on his way from Australia, according to General Gul’s daughter Uzma.
The general rose to great prominence when he became Director General Inter Services Intelligence (DG-ISI), Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, in March 1987. The struggle against the Soviet forces was in full swing and General Gul utilized his considerable talents in support of the Afghan mujahideen. He was a soldier’s soldier and made numerous trips into Afghanistan while serving as head of ISI.
Born in Sargodha on November 20, 1936, he entered the Pakistan Military Academy in 1954. He was commissioned in the army in October 1956. During the 1965 war he was a tank commander and was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat (SJ) for bravery.
In one memorable episode from his daring, he and a fellow officer ambushed an Indian convoy that was carrying an important message for troops in Kashmir. The message was intercepted and Indian military plans were thwarted. General Gul received training at the Staff College Quetta during 1968-1969. This was a prelude to his rapid promotion.
He served as battalion commander from 1972 to 1976 under General Zia ul Haq who was then GOC First Armored Division Multan Corps. In 1978, he was promoted as brigadier followed two years later by his promotion to the rank of Commander First Armored Division Multan Corps. He also served as martial law administrator in Bahawalpur. Throughout his career, he was awarded many distinctions, such as Hilal e Imtiaz (Military) and Sitarah e Basalat for his meritorious services.
After serving as head of the ISI for two years, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and transferred to Command the Strike Corps in Multan in 1989. In this capacity, he organized the Zarb-e Momin exercises, the largest military exercises in Pakistan’s military history barring the general mobilization in the wars of 1965 and 1971 against India.
In 1992, General Asif Nawaz as chief of the army staff tried to sideline General Gul by appointing him as Director of the Military Complex in Texila. General Nawaz clearly feared and perhaps resented General Gul’s popularity. The Texila appointment was managerial post and General Gul considered it below his dignity to serve in this position.
He said he was a soldier and not a manager. He preferred to resign than serve in a soft and easy job. His retirement from the military did not, however, end his involvement in the affairs of the country. He was an outspoken critic of Pakistani politicians calling them corrupt. He also made his views about international affairs known with exacting clarity. For instance, within hours of the 911 attacks, General Gul said it was an “inside job”, a view now widely shared by many people in the US as well.
In March 2007, he joined the long march against General Pervez Musharraf’s dismissal of then Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. He faced down the riot police outside the Supreme Court Building in Islamabad when they tried to arrest him. He was not only a true patriot but also a staunch supporter of the Kashmiris’ struggle for independence. He insisted that without Kashmir, Pakistan remained incomplete.
Given his staunch support of such causes and his criticism of Western, especially US policies, he was placed on the American terror watch list. General Gul dismissed the allegation and told the CBC’s ‘As it Happens’ radio program two years ago, that he was prepared to appear before a US court to answer these allegations. He asked: “Why are the Americans afraid of giving me a visa to come to the US?”
The late general’s views were much sought after by the media not only in Pakistan but also in the international arena.