Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Book Review: A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Fiction Based on Assassination is an interesting topic in the modern era which is pregnant with instances of terrorism and genocide. Mohammed Hanif's first book takes this subject and the novel is a plot about men plotting to murder other men. The timing with which the book has been published could not have been better for when it rolled out, General Musharraf was busy fighting Islamic Terrorism and NATO Forces were monotonously dealing with the mights of Taliban. Pakistan remains something of a mystery for most people in North America, occasionally gaining notoriety for acts of violence against women, political assassinations, and insinuations about its ties with the Taliban and the insurgency in Afghanistan. The author hails from Pakistan and in his first work has decided to touch upon the history of his own nation.

On 17 August 1988, a plane carrying General Zia ul-Haq, the military ruler of Pakistan since 1977 and America's staunchest ally in the first Afghan war, went down in flames, killing everybody on board. Zia was accompanied by some of his senior generals, the US ambassador to Pakistan and the head of the US military aid mission to Pakistan, all of whom died. There was no real investigation and no culprit was ever identified or, at any rate, announced. The novel gives an account of all the plotters who were involved in the mysterious death of the First Citizen of Pakistan (then). The style of writing forces one to brand this a "war novel" but the contents make it one with a mixture that includes Religion, Terrorism, Sex, Violence, Humor and Politics.

General Zia's death threat has been daunting since its outbreak about a year before the real demise. The protagonist, Colonel Shigri in this "so called fiction" is one of the plotters who works ardently to sketch a revenge against the Army General for the death of his father who used to serve the army too. The novel exposes a number of plain facts which are yet untold in the context of detentions and tortures suffered by victims jailed by men in uniform --be it any army in the world.

Apart from this revengeful plot by Ali Shigri, Pakistan's number Two, General Akhtar is trying his luck with another plot aiming at the same end result. The name of the book would go unjustified if i don't mention the plot by the "Secretary General of the Mango Farmers Association of Pakistan". The book unintentionally ends up explaining the birth of the modern terms-"jihad" and "mujahideen". In the end one goes back to square one for the climax keeps the reader at bay and the controversy behind the mysterious death of the General remains as it was.

If one doesn't mind sporadic attacks on religious sentiments, this book is a good one for the way things build up to the D-Day when General Zia boards the Pak One for the last time in his life. But given the fact that this book is a product homogeneously from Pakistan, the religious zeal in Hanif is understandable. Mockery on India, Indians, Indian Army, Indira Gandhi, Nehru, Hindus, Christians, Jews and what not is to be digested while one reads through this fabulous account of the Assassination of General Zia Ul Haq, the then President of Pakistan.

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