Hamid Gul was born on 20 November 1936 to Muhammad Khan, an ethnic Bhati Rajput, in the Sargodha District of Punjab in what was then British India but now Pakistan. He got his early education from a school in his village. He briefly got admission in Government College Lahore, before reporting to Pakistan Military Academy Kakul.
Hamid Gul was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in October 1958 with the 18th PMA Long Course in the 19th Lancers regiment of the Armoured Corps. He was a Tank commander during the 1965 war with India. During 1972-1976, Gul directly served under General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq as a battalion commander, 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 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) 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.
Execution of failed Jalalabad operation
During his time as head of the ISI and the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Gul was blamed for planning and executing the operation to capture Jalalabad from the Afghan army in the spring of 1989. This switch to conventional warfare was seen as a mistake by some mujahideen leaders who considered that the mujahideen did not have the capacity to capture a major city. But the Pakistani army was intent on installing a fundamentalist-dominated 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. 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 militants fighting Afghanistan.
Organization of IJI against PPP
During his tenure as ISI chief in 1988, General Gul successfully gathered right-wing politicians and helped them create Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, a religio-political conservative coalition against the left-leaning liberal Pakistan Peoples Party. He has recently acknowledged this fact in various interviews and for this he was harshly rebuked in one of editorials of a major Pakistani newspaper, which asked the general to apologize first to the PPP for having done the sordid deed and after that, apologizing for lack of wits because the IJI could not maintain its two-thirds majority for long.
According to B Raman, an Indian strategic analyst, Gul actively backed Khalistani terrorism. "When Bhutto became prime minister in 1988", Raman says, "Gul justified backing these insurgents as the only way of preempting 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.
In Islamabad, Gul asked that Iran should 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 will be concluded that the country also supports Mossad, Israeli external intelligence agency
Turning against the United States
General Gul worked closely with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when he was the ISI chief. But, he became passionately anti-American after the United States turned its back on Afghanistan following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, as the United States had promised to help build a prosperous Afghanistan. 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."
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.
Accusation of US and Israel behind 9/11
Only days after the September 11 attacks he stated that they were clearly an inside job. That interview was not published by newspapers.
Solidarity with Osama bin Laden
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 Taliban government, and the Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden it was hosting, whom they considered as a 'great Muslim warrior.
Support for Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry
On March 12, 2007, Gul marched shoulder-to-shoulder with 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. He turned against the restored Supreme Court chief justice after a bench allowed Musharraf to contest the elections in uniform.
Accusation by Benazir Bhutto
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. Gul responded furiously to these claims. He was arrested on November 4 by the Military police in Islamabad during President Pervez Musharraf's declared state of emergency.
He has acknowledged being a member of banned militant organization Ummah Tameer-e-Nau. The United States government has included Hamid 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.
Gul has been 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.
On December 14, 2008 President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari in an interview with Newsweek described Hamid Gul as a political ideologue of terror.
In July 2010, Wikileaks released over 92,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009. In those documents Gul was accused of backing Taliban Insurgency against western forces to disrupt the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.