A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif: Summary and Analysis

Read our detailed notes on the comic novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. Our notes cover A Case of Exploding Mangoes summary and detailed analysis.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes: Introduction

“A Case of Exploding Mangoes” is set in the prior months and the days after the crash. A long way from coming to a conclusion about the cause of Zia’s demise, Hanif merrily thickens the stew of conspiracy speculations, introducing no less than six other conceivable suspects, including a visually impaired lady under sentence of death, a Marxist-Maoist road cleaner, a snake, a crow, a multitude of tapeworms and a lesser student officer in the Pakistani Air Force named Ali Shigri, who is likewise the novel’s principle narrator.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes: Novel Summary

  • The novel won the 2008 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the 2009 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Best First Book. A film adaptation is right now underway.
  • Mohammed Hanif’s comic novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008) is based on the genuine occasions of the 1988 plane crash that murdered the former leader of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq.
  • The story takes place in the months prior to the plane crash, bouncing back and forward between Ali’s reprisal plans and his third-individual observations of General Zia’s life.
  • The story is narrated by the lazy and disrespectful Ali Shigri.
  • The story takes after Ali Shigri, a junior officer in the Pakistani Air Force, attends the Pakistani Air Force Academy with his kindred cadets and their teachers—a cast of brilliant characters that are very likely insane.
  • The bore teacher, the hash-smoking American Lieutenant Bannon, referred to everybody as Loot, wears excessively Old Spice cologne.
  • Uncle Starchy, the squad’s laundryman, utilizes the venom from live snakes to self-medicate.
  • There is also Baby O, Ali’s closest companion, roommate, and sweetheart, who appreciates imaging himself to be Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the title character of the Richard Bach novel.
  • Meanwhile, General Zia’s daily life plays out.
  • As dedicated Muslim, he attends daily prayers, where he sobs uproariously.
  • Each morning, he asks his head of security, “Who’s endeavoring to execute me?”
  • In one subplot, General Zia sentences Zainab, a visually impaired woman, to death by stoning for being the casualty of a gang rape. According to Zia’s Sharia court, she has submitted adultery.
  • For censuring her, Zainab calls down curse upon General Zia. The curse is grabbed by a sugar-fixated crow.
  • Ali’s father, Col. Quli Shigri, has been killed in what was called a suicide.
  • In the meanwhile, Ali finds that his father was executed by a maverick ISI officer, Major Kiyani, under General Zia’s requests.
  • After getting the information, Ali plots to avenge his father.
  • Ali’s initial requital plot comprises of stabbing General Zia in the eye with his under-officer sword—a move he practices in mystery.
  • Be that as it may, Baby O comes up with another plot to murder the General by crashing a plane kamikaze-style down over him. He even goes so far as to steal a plane for the activity, yet in doing as such, he accidentally lands Ali in jail at Lahore Fort, a torment focus.
  • While there, Ali tunes in to the screams of his tormented individual detainees and talks via an opening in the wall with a man who has been in solitary restriction there for nine years.
  • Ali eventually learns that his own particular father is the one in charge of transforming Lahore Fort into a torment focus.
  • Meanwhile, Major Kiyani appears on the scene, expecting to torment Ali.
  • All of a sudden a change in ISI command takes place, and Ali is liberated just under the wire to avoid torment.
  • Upon his arrival back at the Pakistani Air Force Academy, he learns that he has been picked as part of the squad that will play out a quiet bore salute for General Zia. Ali will finally have his chance, and he chooses to stake his requital plot on the utilization of snake venom, infused into the General’s hand via Ali’s sword.
  • After the quiet bore salute, General Zia boards the bound Pak One.
  • General Zia, on August 17, 1988, boards a C-130 plane named the Pak One along.
  • General Zia is along with several of his senior army officials, the US Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel, and a few crates of mangoes.
  • After the take-off, the plane starts to fly erratically and eventually, crashes into the ground.
  • Everybody on board is executed in the following blast.
  • Nonetheless, the novel wraps up without affirming regardless of whether Ali was fruitful in his attempt to assassinate the General.
  • Rather, the book asks, was it the curse carrying crow that crashed into the plane’s motors while seeking after the mangoes on board?
  • Or on the other hand was it a touchy planted in the mangoes by the All Pakistan Sweepers Association in exact retribution for the death of their general-secretary at the hands of Major Kiyani?
  • Or on the other hand perhaps was it any of his confidants, each with their own particular mysteries and motivations?
  • It may even have been the CIA’s doing.
  • At last, the “who” and “why” of the plane crash are less important than the author’s satirical remarks about the political state in Pakistan. The story finishes up with a passage from the Prayer of Jonah from the Qur’an, which also beforehand appeared in chapter two.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes: Characters

  • 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
  • Brigadier TM-Tahir Mirza, who bears a slightly close resemblance with Tariq Mehmood
  • “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
  • 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

A Case of Exploding Mangoes Themes:


General Akhtar Abdul Rehman is the chief of ISI under General Zia. He controlled the tremendously great ISI and falls resentfully second in importance, command, and control to General Zia ul Haq. The ISI with its government agent systems and the measure of financing makes General Akhtar an exceptionally well off and hazardous man. As ISI is in charge of piping the assets and weapons to the Afghan mujahidin, the book indicates that every one of these assets are not given to the mujahidin. The millions are occupied somewhere else, to people with great influence, chief among whom General Akhtar.

Global Politics:

The book investigates the interaction between Zia Ul Haq, Ceausescu and a Prince of Saudi Arabia and their relationship on an individual level. Every one of the 3 countries have distinctive political frameworks and goals. However they all come together like companions when a common foe is available. General Zia even ventured to call his significant other the sister of the individual commanders. This demonstrates the twofold standard that countries have when they declare their political positions on issues. Nonetheless, they have no second thoughts about turning a visually impaired eye to their expressed political positions. Amid this time the Americans did not scrutinize the human right infringement under military dictator. A visually impaired eye was swung to sharia enforcement. Americans could not predict the consequences engaging religious fanatics with arms and cash. Which later on prompt the heartbreaking 9/11.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes: Analysis

  • The title is less peculiar and all the more convincing knowing the paranoid ideas encompassing the demise of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq.
  • The title of the book is taken from the fact that shortly before Zia boarded his special plane at an army base, a case of mangoes was delivered to accompany the general.
  • There has been much speculation that it contained some sort of nerve gas that incapacitated the pilots.
  • The book is divided into two principal narratives:
  • A third-person narrative of General Zia’s growing paranoia.
  • a first-person narrative from Ali Shigri, a disgruntled member of the Silent Drill team, son of a dead General, and one of Zia’s would-be assassins.
  • Hanif skillfully shows Zia transforming from a confident man who has the power to take the word “god” out of parlance to a man who begins to cloister himself in his room.
  • The tone Hanif adopts is also entertaining in its sardonic satire. In a particularly poignant and pleasing and disturbing part, Zia discusses the pending execution of a blind woman for fornication — she was raped.
  • A Case of Exploding Mangoes is an explicit critique of the comprador class ruling in Pakistan. Their decisions are dictated by their own politico-economic gains with absolute indifference to the people and their gains.
  • What is comprador class? Comprador class is a term for the natives of a colonized land that are “bought” by the colonizers. The term ‘comprador class’ has been defined; “[A] relatively privileged, wealthy and educated elite… introduced by colonial domination, and who may therefore be less inclined to struggle for local cultural and political independence” (Ashcroft et al, 2007, p. 55)
  • The parallels between General Zia and President Musharraf that give the novel its political force. In Zia we see Musharraf, whom Hanif has described as being like “Zia on speed, a kind of chest-thumping instead of hand-wringing version of Zia”. The self-justifying generals repeat the mantra, “I am one of ten men standing between the US and the Soviets.” For Soviets, we now inevitably read al-Qaeda.