The former chief of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), the powerful intelligence agency of Pakistan, died of brain hemorrhage in Pakistani resort town of Murree late on Saturday. He was 79.
General Hamid Gul, a controversial military figure and protégé of former military dictator of Pakistan General Zia ul-Haq, led the ISI between 1987 and 1989.
A conspiracy theorist, Gen. Gul supported armed insurgency in Afghanistan during his tenure as the ISI chief. He is notoriously referred to as the “father of the Taliban”.
In a BBC interview in 2010, Gen. Gul famously said: “America is history, Karzai is history, the Taliban are the future.”
Born in Sargodha on Nov 20, 1936, Gen. Gul joined the Pakistan Army in 1954. In the 1965 war against India, he served as a tank commander and was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat by Pakistani government. Between 1968 and 1969, he received training from the staff college in Quetta and served as a battalion commander from 1972 to 1976. In 1978, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier.
In early 1980s, he was appointed the commander of Multan Corp’s and also served as martial law administrator in Pakistani city of Bahawalpur.
His brief stint as the chief of ISI came at a crucial time when the Soviet war in Afghanistan was coming to an end and the armed rebellion against Indian rule in Kashmir was gaining ground.
He played an instrumental role in creating the Taliban and fomenting trouble across the Durand Line.
“He created the Taliban, armed them, funded them and the goal was to destabilize Afghanistan,” says Anwar Mohammadi, a political analyst. “He carried forward the legacy of his mentor Zia ul-Haq.”
Around same time, Gen. Zia ul-Haq died in a mysterious plane crash in August 1988, which paved the ground for first elections in Pakistan in more than a decade.
Gen. Gul played a key role in influencing those events and was even accused of rigging the 1988 election to prevent Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from coming into power.
By his own admission, he played a key role in creating Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), a centre-right coalition headed by Nawaz Sharif against Bhutto’s PPP.
After his retirement, he began propounding various conspiracy theories. Once a close ally of American spy agency CIA, he turned fiercely against the U.S. and became an apologist for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
He had an uncanny penchant for controversies. Earlier this year, he said the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan is not ideal for peace as it emboldens armed insurgents to carry out suicide attacks.
He justified the suicide attacks in Afghanistan “because of the continued presence of foreign forces”.
His conspiracy theories, which he often discussed on run-of-the-mill Pakistani news channels, made him an object of mockery in his own country.
A few years ago, Pakistani journalist and writer, Mohammed Hanif dismissed him as “probably a visionary transporter with a sideline in TV talk.” Many senior Pakistani politicians, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf chief Imran Khan, paid tributes to Gen. Gul.
However, in Afghanistan, the condolences irked all and sundry.
In a statement posted on Twitter, former foreign minister Ershad Ahmadi wrote: “And finally the real Mullah Omar has died in the resort town of Murree.”
Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman in the Ministry of Interior Affairs, called him “the father of Taliban”.
“Gen Hamid Gul former ISI Chief and the father of Taliban is dead, he created Taliban and was behind terror created by Taliban till last day,” he posted on Twitter. (Afghan Zariza)