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Dark comedy on Pak's military to hit stands

Debut novelist Mohammed Hanif's, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, which unfolds the fictional account of what happened to Gen Zia-ul-Haq's plane that crashed in 1988 will hit the book stands in June.

books Updated: Apr 22, 2008 16:45 IST

Why did a Hercules C-130, the world's sturdiest military transport plane, carrying Pakistan's military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq go down on August 17, 1988? Was it because of mechanical failure, the CIA's impatience or a blind woman's curse?

That's the gist of A Case of Exploding Mangoes a dark comedy on Pakistan's military by debut novelist Mohammed Hanif. Set in the last years of Zia's regime in Pakistan, Hanif's book gives a fictional account of what happened to the aircraft that crashed in 1988, killing the military ruler.

Hanif, 40, heads the BBC's Urdu service in London and has been getting rave pre-publication reviews with many seeing him as the most promising author of the year.

It is a tale that Hanif is well qualified to recount as he was a cadet in the Pakistan Air Force at the time of the crash and spent seven years in the force.

Like other cadets, the then regime tried to make a better Muslim out of Hanif and he was once punished by being made to join the tableeghi jamat for three days.

Hanif quit the air force to join journalism and went on to write the famous BBC play What now, now that we are dead? and also made a feature film The Long Night that was shown at several festivals.

Hanif's book, described as "teasing, provocative, and very funny", is about "a military dictator (who) reads the Quran every morning as if it was his daily horoscope" and of a "crow" crossing "the Pakistani border illegally".

The novel is set in the summer of 1988, when the Soviets were vacating their last bunkers in Afghanistan and the mujahideen backed by the US and Pakistan are on the verge of a hard-earned victory.