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Million Mourn at Funeral for Pakistan's Zia

August 21, 1988|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

They included, among others, representatives of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Britain, and each pledged their commitment to the new government and its stated plan to continue along the road to democracy.

The state funeral was a solemn, ceremonial affair, but large-scale mourning seemed to be confined to the capital, and most Pakistanis treated Saturday as just another holiday.

Husain Haqqani, a prominent journalist who served as co-anchor during government television's coverage of the funeral, later explained that the apparent contradiction between the huge size of the funeral and the unemotional response was an indication of how controversial Zia had become in life.

"This is his constituency and has been since he toppled (Prime Minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977," Haqqani said of the throng of hundreds of thousands who covered every square inch of the modern, $50-million marble mosque, some perching more than 100 feet above the multitude atop the mosque's gold-plated crescent.

"When Zia was alive, they didn't have to come out. In fact," he added, "on most recent Fridays, when I went to prayer, my mulvi (Islamic preacher) has been blasting Zia as a phony and un-Islamic.

"Yesterday, he was crying. The basic division in our society is between the Islamicists and the secularists, and this crowd today is saying that the highly religious segment of society cannot be ignored now that Zia is gone."

Haqqani and others at the Faisal Mosque noted many ironies that accompanied Zia's cortege.

The funeral procession began at the palatial, marble presidential residence that was built by Bhutto, whom Zia not only overthrew but later ordered executed, and the route was along Constitution Avenue, a wide boulevard that Bhutto once confided he could imagine himself being carried along when his time came to die.

Bhutto was hanged and ordered buried in the middle of the night by military officers trying to avoid a violent backlash of protest. On Saturday, Zia's remains were those buried in a ceremony that Bhutto had talked about for himself.

Another irony was the Faisal Mosque itself. After nearly a decade of construction, all of it financed by Saudi Arabia, the building is Pakistan's Islamic centerpiece. It was only recently inaugurated by Zia, on June 24.

Although it has been open to the public since then, its first official function was Zia's funeral.

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