A Case of Exploding Mangoes

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A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Case of Exploding Mangoes.jpg
AuthorMohammed Hanif
GenreHistorical fiction
Published2008 (Knopf/US)
Publication date
20 May 2008
Media typePrint (Hardcover )
Pages336 pp

A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008)[1] is an award-winning critically acclaimed[2] comic novel by the Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif based on the plane crash that killed General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, former president of Pakistan. The book won the Best First Book Award in the year 2009 in the Commonwealth Book Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. The book is the basis of an up-coming Indo-Pak film starring Irrfan Khan.[3]

The Guardian described the novel as 'woven in language as explosive as the mangoes themselves, is wickedly cynical and reveals layers of outrageous - and plausible - corruption.' The New York Times, in a review, called the novel 'eerie timeliness'.[4] Washington Post concluded its review with attesting that 'Hanif has his own story to tell, one that defies expectations at every turn.'[5]

Plot summary[edit]

The central theme of the book is a fictitious story behind the real life plane crash which killed General Zia, president of Pakistan from 1977 to 1988, about which there are many conspiracy theories. After witnessing a tank parade in Bahawalpur, Zia left the small Punjabi town in the C-130 Hercules aircraft designated 'Pak One'.

Shortly after a smooth take-off, the control tower loses contact with the aircraft. Witnesses who saw the plane in the air later claimed it was flying erratically, before nosediving and exploding on impact, killing General Zia and several other senior army generals, in addition to Arnold Raphel, the US Ambassador to Pakistan. Zia had ruled Pakistan for 11 years prior to his death.

The book develops through the eyes of the narrator, Ali Shigri, a Junior Officer in the Pakistani Air Force who seeks revenge for the death of his father, which he is convinced, although apparently a suicide, was orchestrated by General Zia himself.

Real persons appearing as characters[edit]

Fictitious Characters[edit]

  • Under Officer Ali Shigri—protagonist, leader of "Silent Drill Squad" at Pakistan Air Force Academy, Risalpur
  • Prisoner imprisoned in the cell next to Ali Shigri, who claims to have been the Secretary General of All Pakistan Sweepers' Union back in the beginning of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's era
  • Under Officer Obaid "Baby O"—Shigri's roommate at Pakistan Air Force Academy, who develops the idea of crashing his plane into an area where Zia is present (in manner of Mathias Rust's flight into Moscow)
  • Brigadier TM-Tahir Mirza, who bears a slightly close resemblance with Tariq Mehmood
  • Lt. "Loot" Bannon—USAF Instructor who develops "Silent Drill"
  • "Uncle Starchy"—launderer for PAF Academy, who keeps jars krait venom which he terms "death nectar"
  • Zainab—blind rape-victim whom Zia sentences to death (through stoning) for adultery, and who curses Zia
  • Maj. Kiyani—ISI officer who pushes Shigri to sign off that his father was a suicide (may be based on 2007-2013 Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, but not identical—as revealed at the novel's end) and transports Shigri between prisons

Awards and nominations[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mohammed Hanif (May 2008). A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Knopf. ISBN 0-307-26807-1.
  2. ^ Gopal, Priyamvada (2008-05-30). "The late dictator". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  3. ^ "Irrfan Khan to star in 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes' film - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 2016-02-11.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Macfarlane, Robert (2008-06-15). "Book Review | 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes,' by Mohammed Hanif". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  5. ^ Slavin, Julia (2008-06-18). "Bursts of Laughter". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  6. ^ 2009 Winners, [1] Archived 2012-01-04 at the Wayback Machine., The Commonwealth Foundation Website. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
  7. ^ 'The Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2008 - The Winner', [2], Remembering Shakti Bhatt webpage [3], 27 January 2009. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
  8. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (31 October 2008). "Five of the best in line for the Guardian first book award". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  9. ^ Prize Archive 2008, [4] Archived 2011-11-21 at the Wayback Machine., The Man Booker Prize website. Retrieved 2012-02-06.