A Case of Exploding Mangoes 'targeted by authorities after Urdu translation'

Mohammed Hanif reports that his Pakistani publisher was raided not long after his 2008 satire became available in the national language

Copies of a decade-old, Booker-longlisted satire about the death of Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia ul-Haq has been seized in a raid on the offices of its Pakistani publisher just weeks after it was finally translated into Urdu, according to its author Mohammed Hanif.

Hanif, a British Pakistani journalist and author, attributed the raid to “some people claiming to be from the ISI”, Pakistan’s military spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. They “barged into my Urdu publisher Maktaba Daniyal offices [and] confiscated all copies of Urdu translation of A Case of Exploding Mangoes,” Hanif said on Twitter, adding that they also threatened the publisher’s manager, demanded information about his whereabouts and threatened to return the next day to get lists of booksellers selling the novel.

An official at ISI denied Hanif’s claims, telling the Associated Press that it was a “cheap attempt to gain popularity by hurling false accusations on a national institution”.

First published, in English, in 2008, A Case of Exploding Mangoes is a dark satire about the possible reasons for the death of General Zia in a plane crash in 1988. Featuring bumbling generals and homosexual romance, it was shortlisted for the Guardian first book award, longlisted for the Booker and won the Commonwealth prize for best first novel. Described as “exuberant and satirical … an angry comedy about Zia’s brutal legacy to Pakistan” by the Observer, it was only released in Urdu late last year.

“A Case of Exploding Mangoes has been in [print] for 11 years now. Nobody has ever bothered me. Why now?” asked Hanif. “I am sitting here, wondering when will they come for us. ISI is world’s No 1 spy agency. I am sure they have better things to do. I have my school run tomorrow.”

The author also said that he and his publishers received a defamation notice from Zia’s son, politician Ijaz ul-Haq, last week. It demands Rs1bn (£4.9m) for “maligning General Zia’s good name”. Hanif said: “Our lawyers are preparing a reply.”

The situation was condemned by human rights organisations, including Amnesty International south Asia, which called it “an alarming sign that freedom of expression continues to be under attack in Pakistan”, and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which described it as a “craven attempt to stifle artistic freedom of expression”.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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