Longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2008. Mohammed Hanif’s dark political satire about love, betrayal, tyranny, family - and a lethal conspiracy trying its damnedest to happen.

Ali Shigri is on a mission to avenge his father’s suspicious death, which the government is calling a suicide. Ali’s target is none other than General Zia ul-Haq, dictator of Pakistan. Enlisting a rag-tag group of conspirators, including his cologne-soaked roommate, a hash-smoking American and a mango-besotted crow, Ali sets his elaborate plan in motion. There’s only one problem: the line of would-be Zia assassins is longer than he could have possibly known.

The Man Booker Prize 2008
Published by
Jonathan Cape
Mohammed Hanif

Mohammed Hanif

About the Author

Mohammed Hanif is a Booker Prize rarity: he graduated as a pilot officer from the Pakistan Airforce Academy before abandoning a life in the skies for one in journalism and fiction.
More about Mohammed Hanif

Censorship and the Urdu edition of A Case of Exploding Mangoes

In October 2019, 11 years after it was longlisted for the Booker Prize, Mohammed Hanif’s novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes was translated into Urdu and released in Pakistan.

The political satire is a fictionalised account of the events leading up to and immediately following the mysterious plane crash that killed Pakistan’s military director, General Zia-ul-Haq, in 1988. The novel depicts the General as paranoid and manipulative, and his military forces as politically corrupt and violent. 

Zia had seized power in a coup in 1977 and became Pakistan’s longest-serving de facto head of state. A divisive figure, he was credited with preventing the Soviet Union from invading Pakistan, but blamed for creating conditions for religious intolerance. There were several theories as to what had caused Zia’s plane to crash, from mechanical failure to sabotage. According to one conspiracy theory, a crate of mangoes on board the aircraft contained a canister of nerve gas which exploded mid-flight, killing the pilots. This and other theories are explored in Hanif’s novel. In Robert Macfarlane’s review of the book in the New York Times in 2008, he said that ‘Zia’s fate is one of Pakistan’s two great political mysteries, the other being the assassination of Benazir Bhutto’.

In January 2021, Hanif reported that agents purporting to be members of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence had raided the offices of the novel’s publisher in Karachi and seized every copy of the book. He then said they returned days later, taking with them names and addresses of bookshops and distributors of A Case of Exploding Mangoes. He claimed that copies of the book had been removed from shops across the country.

Hanif also alleged that prior to the raid, members of his family had sent a defamation note to his publisher complaining about the content of the novel and its portrayal of the General. 

An ISI official dismissed the claims Hanif made, and told the Associated Press it was a ‘cheap attempt to gain popularity by hurling false accusations on a national institution’ and said they were not aware of any such raid being carried out by the ISI.

The act was condemned by Amnesty International who said it was ‘an alarming sign that freedom of expression continues to be under attack in Pakistan’.

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq with a soldier, Pakistan, 1977

NDTV Profit: In conversation with Mohammed Hanif