I've just finished reading A case of exploding mangoes, Mohammed Hanif's novel based on the mysterious air crash that killed Pakistani rules Gen Zia ul Haq. Also killed in the crash were a Lt Gen in the army and the US ambassador to Pakistan. Hanif is a former air force office now residing in the UK.
It's a terrific read, a thriller of sorts. Hanif is South Asia's answer to John Le Carre, I daresay. The story cuts between the interrogation of a suspect in the assisination plot and Zia's own life in the months leading up to the crash. The protagonist, an air force officer, wants to assasinate Zia in reprisal for the murder of his father, a former Colonel in the Pak army.
Col Shigri was a key figure in the funneling of arms and money to the Afghan militia in their war against the then Soviet Union. The sums involved were large and a good deal went into the pockets of Pak army men. Shigri inteferes- and is found hanging in his own house. For the record, his death is described as a suicide.
The novel shows that the CIA wanted Zia out of the way and ambitious army officers were eager to carry out its bidding. It shows that the US diplomat's death in the crash was the result of a mishap but probably the sort of price that people in Washington are willing to pay when they want a job done. A Major Kiyani figures prominently in the story- I wonder if that is the present Chief of the Pak army.
Zia's paranoia makes for hilarious reading. The novel is tightly written, with a wry humour that never fails to find its mark. The murky goings-on in the Pak army are well chronicled. I said to myself after reading the novel: if a former Pak air force officer can write with such ironic detachment and so well about his country and the armed forces, there must be something very right with that country. Pakistan a failed state? No way, if this novel and its author are anything to go by.