ISLAMABAD - Hamid Gul , the former spymaster, aspired for Islamic revolution or Khilafat (caliphate) and for this he crossed the lines during his military career and after retirement – a dream unfulfilled.

Weeks before his death, the general had called for suspending the Constitution to ward off the threat of a civil war. The proposal was snubbed by the democracy-lovers as a call for another martial law. Gul never clarified he was seeking something other than a coup.

“Hamid Gul was a committed man. He believed in Khilafat (caliphate) and Islamic revolution. One may not agree with his point of view but he had devoted his life for his ideology,” Brigadier Asad Munir (r), a former officer in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), commented.

Talking to The Nation, the brigadier said that Gul’s legacy was likely to meet the fate of so many pro-revolution advocates.

“I don’t think there will be too many followers who will keep the flag high. There is no legacy. Even I don’t agree with his philosophy but we must admit he held on to it all his life. He was a strong supporter of Jihad (holy war) for change (revolution),” the ex-ISI official commented.

Brigadier Munir maintained that he differed with the former ISI chief’s strategy to ‘snatch Kashmir’ from India through the Jihadis. “I told him the Kashmir issue may be solved in a few years and we will be unable to accommodate the Jihadis who will be hell bent to bring an Islamic revolution through force like it happened in Afghanistan. We supported the Mujahideen (holy warriors) in Afghanistan and later they became a liability,” he recalled.

He said that formation of the controversial Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) was also designed to bring about an Islamic system of government but it failed.

“Hamid Gul was against the US role in Pakistan and the region. He wanted the Muslims to be united under a Khialfa (caliph) or an organisation that could play a coordinator’s role. This was something close to being impossible,” he remarked.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political scientist and military analyst, opined the late general will be remembered as the one who crossed the lines during his service and after retirement.

“He got engaged in politics when he was still in uniform. His legacy would be a general who opted for extremist politics. He wanted to introduce a system of his liking in Pakistan, an Islamic rule,” Rizvi observed.

The senior analyst believed that Gul wanted to win the Afghan war against the Soviet Union during General Ziaul Haq’s regime through the Mujahideen and do the same in Kashmir against India.

“Under General Ziaul Haq he was actually following the official policy. At that time Pakistan was fighting against the Soviet Union through the Muhaideen and we were active for Kashmir freedom too,” he recalled.

Rizvi said Gul was behind the formation of the IJI to put up a strong challenge to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). “The balance was in favour of the PPP. They wanted to neutralise it. Hamid Gul played a role in it,” he pointed out.

The analyst claimed that Gul saw the United States as an anti-Pakistan force and thus was against their presence in Afghanistan. “Gul feared US in Afghanistan was as threatening to Pakistan as Soviet Union,” he said.

Dr Khurram Iqbal, a senior defence analyst, felt Pakistan had lost a person of a ‘particular point of view. “I think this is his legacy. He was for a change but had a different plan,” he held.

He added, “His analysis could not be ignored. For example everybody believed the US will stay in Afghanistan for decades and he insisted they won’t be there for more than 10 years. What happened? The US is packing up.”

“And recently,” said Iqbal from the National Defence University, “Hamid Gul talked about the revival of Sikhs freedom movement in India and then the Gurdaspur incident happened. We hear now the Sikhs movement is getting strength.”

Regarding the political ambitions of the late general, the analyst said, “He was not alone. There have been so many who have violated their mandates. You can differ with Hamid Gul but you can’t single him out among the many,” he contended.

Iqbal noted that Gul did not change his viewpoint after the 1980s and 1990s. “This was his problem. He was stuck to the old plan. He continued to look at the Taliban the same way he used to while Pakistan started an operation against them.”

Commenting on the caliphate plan, the analyst said, “Some even say Hamid Gul was tipped as the first Khaifa if Taliban seize power in Pakistan. This was something hypothetical.”

Iqbal cautioned that Pakistan and Afghanistan had lost an important figure in Hamid Gul who could play a mediator’s role between them and the Taliban.

“Don’t forget Hamid Gul had good contacts in the Taliban and Haqqani network’s ranks. He was always going to be helpful for peace talks. This is a great loss for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he argued.

Gul was notable for serving as the director general of the ISI 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.

The former ISI chief earned a reputation as a ‘Godfather’ of Pakistani geostrategic policies. Following an escalation of the Kashmir rebellion in India and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, he remained a controversial figure even after retirement, and was accused by the US of having ties to shady groups. However, Gul denied the allegations.

His tenure as the director of the ISI coincided with Benazir Bhutto's term as the prime minister. Later, Gul played a role in the establishment of IJI to oppose Bhutto’s PPP.

Gul's family was Pathan of Punjab and belonged to the Yousufzai clan. They originated from Swat and migrated to Lahore, later settling in Sargodha in Punjab.

Gul was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in October 1956. 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 Mohammed Ziaul Haq as a battalion commander, and then as staff colonel, when General Zia was the general officer commanding (GOC), 1st Armoured Division and Commander, II Corps at Multan.

Gul had already cemented his ties with General Ziaul Haq by serving under him when both were officers in the armoured regiments of the II Corps.

He 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 General Ziaul Haq himself.

Hamid Gul was then sent to the General Headquarters (GHQ) as the Director General or DG Military Intelligence (DGMI) and later General Ziaul Haq nominated him as the ISI chief succeeding General Akhtar Abdur Rahman in March 1987. He was replaced as the ISI commander by PM Benazir Bhutto in May 1989 and 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 muscles since the 1971 Pakistan-India War.

General Asif Nawaz upon taking the reins of Pakistan army in August 1991, had him transferred as the DG Heavy Industries Taxila, a menial job Gul, who refused to take, an act for which he was retired from the army.

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 US had promised to help build a prosperous Afghanistan.

He was further disconcerted when the US began punishing Pakistan with economic and military sanctions for its secret nuclear programme. General Gul then went on to declare that “the Muslim world must stand united to confront the US in its so-called war on terrorism, which is in reality a war against Muslims. Let's destroy America wherever its troops are trapped.”

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

In June, Gul had created possibly the last controversy of his life seeking suspension of the constitution and a stopgap arrangement for reforms to avert a civil war.

The lawmakers from various political parties criticised him for encouraging a ‘martial law’ when the democracy was getting strength after a long dictatorial rule.

PPP’s Saeed Ghani had said in the Senate, “The track record of the former general is self-explanatory as he remained a staunch critic of democracy throughout his life.”

Ghani opposed passing a resolution against Gul asserting “It will be an insult to the sanctity of parliament. He must not be given any importance.”

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, from the PPP, had also condemned Hamid Gul’s call.

Shah warned that the former ISI chief’s statement could be part of a “conspiracy against the constitution and the country.”

Talking to The Nation, PPP’s Senator Taj Haider said Gul had always played a role against the democracy as he was ‘committed’ to his agenda of bringing revolution through force.

“Let’s give him credit. He was sincere with his cause. He was looking for an Islamic system and he worked for it all his life,” Haider said.

The Senator agreed Gul’s political role and his support for the militants could not be justified but was adamant that he could not be solely accused of such violations.

“We need to ask ourselves, was he the only one who did it. If not, we should not blame him squarely for all the wrongdoings. He was a committed anti-democrat. But he was open in his views,” he said.

Senator Haider held Gul, whose funeral in Rawapindi on Sunday was attended by army chief Raheel Sharif, responsible for rigging in the 1990 polls and forming IJI to steal the mandate of the people.

“He supported militants and wanted a conservative Islamic system of the government in Pakistan. This he failed to achieve despite all his efforts.”