Million Mourn at Funeral for Pakistan’s Zia
As a 21-gun salute of light artillery resounded off the lush Margalla Hills and some of the nearly 1 million mourners joined in chants of “Zia ul-Haq, you will live as long as the sun and moon remain above,” the body of Pakistan’s longest-serving military ruler was laid to rest Saturday in a 4-by-10-foot dirt grave in front of the huge, modern mosque that Zia had built as a symbol of his nation’s commitment to Islam.
Despite the enormous crowd--the largest assembled in Pakistan in more than a decade--there were few signs of grief over the death of the devout Islamic military commander who had ruled this nation of 100 million with an iron hand for 11 years.
Religious leaders chanted, “Soldier of Islam, Soldier of truth, Zia ul-Haq, Zia ul-Haq,” through hundreds of loudspeakers, and they encouraged the mass of mourners to join in.
But, mirroring the mixed mood of shock and foreboding that has spread through Pakistan during the three days since an explosion and plane crash killed their ruler, most members of the overwhelmingly male funeral crowd simply stared silently in the broiling afternoon heat with dazed expressions.
“No doubt, our soldier of Islam is dead,” said one ragged yet stoic mourner in the crowd. “But we worry more about what will come next.”
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, after laying one of the scores of floral wreaths that by sunset smothered Zia’s grave, made it a point before he left the mosque to meet with the seven principal leaders of Afghanistan’s moujahedeen resistance, who were accorded diplomatic status with the dozens of national governments represented at the funeral.
“You know how much we admire what you do and how the United States and President Reagan continue to support you,” Shultz told the seven gray-bearded leaders near the tomb of the man who was instrumental in funneling American aid to the Afghan rebels.
Through a translator, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, leader of one of the most zealous of the moujahedeen groups that have been waging war against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, then told Shultz: “We are of the opinion that your responsibilities have increased after the death of President Zia.”
Shultz replied, “Well, he is a great loss.”
Sayyaf then said, “We have decided that he is the victim of the holy war in Afghanistan--he is the martyr of Afghanistan.”
“He is a martyr,” Shultz agreed. “He is a great man.”
Although the moujahedeen leaders expressed belief that Wednesday’s explosion, followed by the crash that also killed U.S. Ambassador Arnold L. Raphel, a senior U.S. military attache, and 10 top Pakistani generals, was engineered by Afghan or Soviet agents. Pakistani officials offered nothing new Saturday to explain the mysterious disaster aboard Zia’s C-130 transport plane.
At least two Cabinet ministers were quoted in the press as saying they were convinced it was sabotage, and the nation’s leaders privately reaffirmed that they, too, are convinced the explosion was no accident.
Several published accounts speculated, with no evidence, that a bomb may have been smuggled aboard the aircraft in one of several crates of mangoes, which most Pakistanis are expected to bring home to relatives after trips to the region that Zia had visited. Several diplomats called the mango theory “far-fetched.”
As the funeral commanded the attention of most of the nation, a team of eight U.S. Air Force investigators, here to help try to piece together what happened to the C-130, spent the day sifting through the little wreckage remaining at the blistering desert crash site. No details of their work were made public.
Before attending the funeral, Shultz met with Pakistan’s new President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and several times praised him for what Shultz later called the government’s “preservation of the continuity of constitutional government.”
“We have come not only to pay our respects to a fallen leader, but to reaffirm our commitment to preserve and strengthen our relationship,” Shultz told reporters.
In a closing comment that many Pakistanis took as a reaffirmation of America’s 32-year-old treaty pledging to defend Pakistan militarily if it comes under Communist threat, Shultz said, “As friends, we are prepared to render any help you need during this time of tragedy and sorrow.”
Later, a U.S. official stressed that the treaty covers only Communist threats--not those that might emanate from such Pakistani neighbors as its old adversary, India.
Shultz was one of dozens of visiting dignitaries who met Ishaq Khan to reaffirm international support in the aftermath of a tragedy that killed the single man who has controlled Pakistani government policy, domestic and foreign, for more than a decade.
Six presidents, three vice presidents, nine prime ministers and deputy prime ministers, five foreign ministers and one crown prince met with the new president during a long day.
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.