Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A satirical novel that imagines the events leading up to the plane crash that killed Pakistan's dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, blending humor and political intrigue.


"A Case of Exploding Mangoes" by Mohammed Hanif is a satirical novel that delves into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of General Zia ul-Haq, the former President of Pakistan. Through a blend of dark humor, political intrigue, and historical fiction, Hanif offers a captivating and thought-provoking narrative that sheds light on the complexities of power, corruption, and the human condition.

Brief Synopsis

The novel is primarily set in the 1980s in Pakistan, during the tumultuous era of General Zia ul-Haq's military dictatorship. The story revolves around the protagonist, Ali Shigri, a young officer at a military academy who becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy and betrayal. As the narrative unfolds, the reader is taken on a journey through the corridors of power, the inner workings of the military, and the clandestine world of espionage.

Main Events

1-5Ali Shigri is introduced as a cadet at a military academy. His roommate, Obaid, is found dead under mysterious circumstances. Ali becomes determined to uncover the truth behind Obaid's death.
6-10Flashbacks reveal Ali's complex relationship with his father, Col. Shigri, and his experiences growing up in a military environment. Meanwhile, General Zia's regime exerts its authoritarian control over Pakistan.
11-15Ali's investigation into Obaid's death leads him to suspect that the military establishment may be involved. He also becomes romantically involved with General Zia's favorite prostitute, Zainab.
16-20The narrative shifts to the perspective of General Zia, providing insights into his paranoia, religious fervor, and the political maneuvering within his inner circle. The tension and mistrust among the military officers intensify.
21-25Ali's quest for truth becomes increasingly perilous as he navigates the treacherous landscape of military politics and faces threats to his own safety. The novel builds towards a climactic and explosive conclusion.

Main Characters

Ali Shigri

A determined and resourceful young officer in the Pakistani military academy, Ali is driven by a desire to uncover the truth behind his roommate's mysterious death.

General Zia ul-Haq

The authoritarian and enigmatic President of Pakistan, whose regime casts a shadow over the entire narrative. Zia's religious zeal and political machinations are central to the story.


A captivating and enigmatic figure, Zainab is General Zia's favorite prostitute, and her involvement with Ali adds layers of complexity to the narrative.

Col. Shigri

Ali's father and a senior military officer, Col. Shigri's influence and personal history intertwine with the unfolding events, adding depth to the story.

Themes and Insights

Power and Corruption

The novel delves into the corrupting influence of power, particularly within the military and political spheres. It explores how individuals are driven to manipulate, betray, and compromise their morals in the pursuit and preservation of power.

Paranoia and Conspiracy

Hanif skillfully weaves a narrative of paranoia and conspiracy, capturing the atmosphere of mistrust and secrecy that permeated General Zia's regime. The novel offers insights into the psychological toll of living under a repressive and authoritarian government.

Religion and Politics

The intertwining of religious ideology and political power is a prominent theme in the novel. It provides a critical examination of the ways in which religious rhetoric is exploited for political gain and how it shapes the actions of those in positions of authority.

Irony and Satire

The novel employs dark humor and satire to underscore the absurdities and contradictions of life under a dictatorship. Hanif's use of irony sheds light on the farcical nature of political propaganda and the tragicomic consequences of unchecked authority.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Case of Exploding Mangoes" offers readers a captivating and darkly humorous exploration of power, conspiracy, and the human psyche. Through its richly drawn characters and intricate plot, the novel provides a compelling glimpse into a pivotal period in Pakistan's history, while delivering timeless insights into the complex dynamics of power and the often absurd nature of political intrigue.


Mohammed Hanif's "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" stands as a compelling and thought-provoking work that masterfully blends historical fiction, satire, and political commentary. The novel's exploration of power, corruption, and the human experience, set against the backdrop of General Zia ul-Haq's regime, offers readers a rich and immersive narrative that resonates long after the final page is turned.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes FAQ

  1. What is 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes' about?

    The book is a darkly comic and subversive novel that reimagines the events leading up to the mysterious plane crash that killed the dictator of Pakistan, General Zia ul-Haq, in 1988. It follows the story of a young Pakistani air force officer who becomes embroiled in a web of conspiracy and intrigue.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes'?

    The author of 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes' is Mohammed Hanif, a Pakistani author and journalist known for his insightful and satirical writing.

  3. What themes are explored in 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes'?

    The novel explores themes of power, corruption, and the absurdity of military dictatorships. It also delves into the complexities of loyalty, friendship, and the impact of historical events on individual lives.

  4. Is 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes' based on true events?

    While the novel is a work of fiction, it is inspired by real historical events, particularly the plane crash that killed General Zia ul-Haq. Mohammed Hanif draws from his own experiences as a former air force officer to create a compelling and speculative narrative.

  5. What is the writing style of 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes'?

    The writing style of the novel is characterized by dark humor, sharp wit, and a satirical approach to political and military power. It combines elements of thriller, mystery, and historical fiction to create a captivating and thought-provoking narrative.