Al-Qaeda closing in on Israel: Pakistan's former top spymaster-I
Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, who was born on November 20, 1936 in the suburbs of Sargodha and joined the Pakistani Army in 1958, headed Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency — Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), from March 1987 to May 1989, when he was transferred as the commander of II Corps in Multan. In this capacity, he conducted the Zarb-e-Momin military exercise in November-December 1989, the biggest Pakistani armed forces show of muscle since Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
Upon taking the reins of Pakistan Army in August 1991, General Asif Nawaz transferred Lieutenant General Hamid Gul as the director-general of the Heavy Industries, Taxila, but the latter refused to take the assignment on the account that it was not in line with his military training. He developed differences with the-then army chief and was retired from the army in 1992.
For holding important positions in the top intelligence agencies of the country during the Afghan war against Soviet Union and having worked with the Afghan guerrilla leaders who defeated the Soviet army, he is considered an expert on the Afghan affairs. His comments and interviews on the Afghan issue and Pakistan’s internal security issues are widely published and telecast by the national as well as international print and electronic media.
The ‘Security Today’, a monthly magazine recently launched from Islamabad, arranged an interview with Lieutenant General (Retd) Hamid on the latest situation in the region, with particular focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan’s internal security situation. The magazine is not available online so the interview is posted here for NP members and readers.
Question: There has been American influence on Pakistan’s policies during the Pervez Musharraf regime and even before that but it has now become much more visible. In your opinion, what is the reason?
Answer: Historically, Pakistan has been under the American influence ever since we went into signing an agreement of cooperation with America, becoming member of Baghdad Pact and then Seato [Southeast Asia Treaty Organization] and Cento [Central Treaty Organization], so there is a long history of our relationship with America. But this relationship has always been, unfortunately, to the disadvantage of Pakistan. Except in certain brief periods, where we wanted help from America both economic and military. Pakistan’s security concerns, off and on, were addressed by the Americans but Americans have never had any natural relationship with us. Their natural inclination, being an imperial power and being under the control of the Jewish, pro-Israel lobbies, has always leaned towards India more than towards Pakistan. And that is why each of our rulers had to eventually, towards the end, try and defy America. I think the epic example is that of Ayub Khan who gave lot of stability, economic strength and systems to Pakistan. He created systems and institutions but he was a dictator and was drawing his main strength from America. Towards the end when he realized that the relationship with America is one of master and slave, he wrote his famous book ‘Friends not Masters’, wherein he showed his disillusionment and despair towards American policies. That has been the story repeated with each of our rulers. Towards the end of their rule, be they democratic or be they dictators, the story of every Pakistani ruler remains the same as they discover the same disillusionment. So this is quite an open secret now that Americans have always used us. We have been their necessity because we are so strategically located and that we are what was the largest Islamic country at one time. We are still the most powerful Islamic country… and we have very close relationship with China. Those are the things that gave us certain advantages even before we became a nuclear power. But the Americans have tried to block our security interests and they have tried to create a dependence of Pakistan on them. During the days of Ziaul Haq, of course, America needed us very badly when the Soviet Union came into Afghanistan and they wanted Soviets defeated because they were a big threat. They had almost given up because Soviet power was rolling out for the first time in this region but Pakistan came to their help. It was in our interest also because we didn’t want Soviet Union to be riding us roughshod. In that period, I think the success we had was that we were able to develop our nuclear capability quietly because Americans needed us, so we continued our work and they continued to give us the certificate of good behavior in the nuclear field so naturally we gained a lot. But being a dictator, Ziaul Haq regime had certain major shortcomings and he could not really capitalize on it. The Americans ditched us and went away once the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. Then came a period of semi and pseudo democracy: Benazir Bhutto’s two tenures and Nawaz Sharif’s two tenures. They only ruled tentatively without any firm authority and good governance. The Americans wanted Kashmir cause to be settled on the terms of India as this was their requirement and the [Pakistani] leadership went along with them. They wanted nuclear rollback, they wanted China to be distanced from Pakistan and they wanted the Afghan Islamic regime, of any sorts, of any character, to be isolated. So these were their requirements from Pakistan. Unfortunately, the only good thing that happened was nuclear blast that Nawaz Sharif carried out on the 28th of May 1998. And that set the pace of the new kind of relationship. Now Pakistan was a nuclear power and they still wanted to get its nuclear program rolled back because Israel and India wanted Pakistan to be denuclearized. But obviously they didn’t know how to do it because Pakistan, if really it went into the opposition camp, will be a very strong force. In this scenario, comes Pervez Musharraf’s regime. I have no doubt that Americans set him up. They wanted Nawaz Sharif out because they had gotten fed up with democracy. They thought these controlled democracies, controlled means their control on them, were not able to deliver to them on the objective that they were working for. So they thought that if the army is always intervening, the ISI [Inter Services Intelligence] is intervening and it stands in the way to block their achievement of objective. So they set up Musharraf’s takeover and he took over and you know rest of the story. Then 9/11 happened. This was the doing of Americans themselves because they were looking for an excuse. George Bush had lots of money left over from the Clinton era and wanted the world conquered and Muslim movements crushed. And most of these objectives were actually, directly or indirectly, related to Pakistan. For instance, denuclearization was one of the objectives so that Israel and India would feel secure. Pakistan was, of course, the only Islamic country having the nuclear weapons. Then they wanted the subjugation of the Islamic spirit of the resurgence, call it jihad or give it any name. They wanted to put it down ruthlessly. They wanted China to be isolated and to be kept out of this region. And so this was also related to Pakistan. They wanted to reach out to the Central Asian oil reserves in the future and Pakistan had relevance there as well. So Pakistan was a very important country, both from the point of view of controlling and bringing it along as well as keeping it under check so that it does not grow naturally according to the genesis of its creation. Pervez Musharraf was a weak guy I still feel. And I am so ashamed to mention that he was once my subordinate and my student and we had enjoyed best of relationships. And at least on two occasions I gave him good reports which may have been responsible for his promotion. So I really feel that he took us for a ride, he wasn’t the man that one thought he was. So he allowed the Americans too much of ingress. When I was DG ISI and we were cooperating very closely with America and CIA, but still we would check them; we would not let them to go to the frontier regions of Pakistan; we would not let them meet the mujahideen leadership; we said no, we are the conduit, we are the frontline players; therefore, it is our responsibility and you don’t have to come into it. So we really kept them in check and once [US] Ambassador [Deane R] Hinton [1983-86] was going without formal permission from the Foreign Office to Peshawar and under my orders he was asked to turn back from the Attock Bridge. He was asked to return to Islamabad because he had no formal permission. Robert Oakley was one of the most important ambassadors as he was known as viceroy in Pakistan. [He succeeded late Arnold Lewis Raphel, who was killed in an air crash along with President General Muhammad Ziaul Haq in August 1988]. Before Benazir’s arrival when I was the director-general of ISI, I would not give him time for meeting for several weeks when he requested for time. And I would make him wait in my waiting room and would meet him there and not in my office. Then came the time when he would open the door and walk into the prime minister’s office without being asked, checked or without being given the formal permission. So Musharraf’s era was distinct in this sense that Americans moved right into our system. Previously, the Americans were dealing with the Foreign Office but they did not have access to the Interior Ministry. Unfortunately, during Musharraf’s time they were given access to the Interior Ministry, to Defense Ministry, to other ministries, into the provinces, so they started spreading their tentacles. They brought in their CIA network; they brought in their FBI; they started picking up people; and they used our departments and various intelligence agencies to do their dirty work; to carry out midnight knocks at the doors that they wanted to knock; picked up young men and sometimes even old men and took them into what I can only describe as torture camps, into safe houses.
For second part of interview, go to: http://my.nowpublic.com/world/al-qaeda-closing-israel-pakistans-former-top-spymaster-ii
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