Zia Mohyeddin, British-Pakistani ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ ‘Immaculate Conception’ Actor, Dies at 91

Zia Mohyeddin, a British-Pakistani actor known for films “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Immaculate Conception” and the stage version of “A Passage to India,” died on Monday in Karachi. He was 91.

Mohyeddin was ill and was on life support in a Karachi hospital, his family said.

Mohyeddin was born in Lylallpur (now Faisalabad), British India, in 1931. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in the early 1950s. After theater roles in “Long Day’s Journey into Night” and “Julius Caesar,” Mohyeddin made his West End debut in “A Passage to India” in 1960, where he originated the role of Dr. Aziz.

The actor featured in David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), playing the role of Arab guide Tafas. Roles in Alexander Mackendrick’s “Sammy Going South” (1963), Fred Zinnemann’s “Behold a Pale Horse” (1964), Basil Dearden’s “Khartoum” (1966), Ralph Thomas’ “Deadlier Than the Male” (1966), Tony Richardson’s “The Sailor from Gibraltar” (1967), Freddie Francis’ “They Came from Beyond Space” (1967) and Peter Hall’s “Work Is a Four-Letter Word” (1968) followed.

Mohyeddin returned to Pakistan in the late 1960s and hosted the immensely popular television talk show, “The Zia Mohyeddin Show” (1969-73) on PTV. He returned to the U.K. in the late 1970s after differences of opinion with General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime and produced multicultural program “Here and Now” (1986 – 1989) for Central Television (now ITV).

The actor’s later roles included landmark Granada Television series “The Jewel in the Crown” (1984), Ken McMullen’s “Partition” (1987) and Jamil Dehlavi’s “Immaculate Conception” (1992).

In 2005, the then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf asked Mohyeddin to form the National Academy of Performing Arts in Karachi, and the actor remained its President Emeritus till his death.

Mohyeddin was also known as one of the world’s foremost reciters of Urdu-language prose and poetry.

In 2012, Mohyeddin was accorded the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second-highest civilian honor in Pakistan.

“It is sad that a person with many beautiful qualities has left society. Zia Mohyeddin’s voice will keep resonating in our hearts and minds,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a statement.

Pakistan President Arif Ali said: “To me it is a personal loss. He was a giant in the arts, an actor, producer, director & above all an excellent reciter of prose & poetry accompanied by music typically prompting with a pause.”

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Saddened to learn of the passing of Zia Mohyeddin. I knew him for decades. He was a highly cultured person, extremely well read esp in Urdu literature and an institution in the world of entertainment. He will be missed. My condolences & prayers go to his family.”

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