Synopses & Reviews
A first novel of the first orderprovocative, exuberant, wickedly cleverthat reimagines the conspiracies and coincidences leading to the mysterious 1988 plane crash that killed Pakistans dictator General Zia ul-Haq.
At the center is Ali Shigri: Pakistan Air Force pilot and Silent Drill Commander of Fury Squadron. His father, one of Zias colonels, committed suicide under suspicious circumstances. Ali is determined to understand what or who pushed his father to such desperationand to avenge his death.
What he quickly discovers is a snarl of events: Americans in Pakistan, Soviets in Afghanistan, dollars in every hand. But Ali remains patient, determined, a touch world-weary (“You want freedom and they give you chicken korma”), and unsurprised at finding Zia at every turn. He mounts an elaborate plot for revenge with an ever-changing crew (willing and not) that includes his silk-underwear-and-cologne-wearing roommate; a hash-smoking American lieutenant with questionable motives; the chief of Pakistans secret police, who mistakenly believes hes in cahoots with the CIA; a blind woman imprisoned for fornication; Uncle Starchy, the squadrons laundryman; and, not least of all, a mango-besotted crow. General Ziadevout Muslim and leering admirer of non-Muslim cleavagebegins every day by asking his chief of security: “Whos trying to kill me?” and the answer lies in a conspiracy trying its damnedest to happen . . .
Intrigue and subterfuge combine with misstep and luck in this darkly comic book about love, betrayal, tyranny, familyand a world that unexpectedly resembles our own.
"Pakistan's ongoing political turmoil adds a piquant edge to this fact-based farce spun from the mysterious 1988 plane crash that killed General Zia, the dictator who toppled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto. Two parallel assassination plots converge in Hanif's darkly comic debut: Air Force Junior Under Officer Ali Shigri, sure that his renowned military father's alleged suicide was actually a murder, hopes to kill Zia, who he holds responsible. Meanwhile, disgruntled Zia underlings scheme to release poison gas into the ventilation system of the general's plane. Supporting characters include Bannon, a hash-smoking CIA officer posing as an American drill instructor; Obaid, Shigri's Rilke-reading, perfume-wearing barracks pal, whose friendship sometimes segues into sex; and, in a foreboding cameo, a 'lanky man with a flowing beard,' identified as OBL, who is among the guests at a Felliniesque party at the American ambassador's residence. The Pakistan-born author served in his nation's air force for several years, which adds daffy verisimilitude to his depiction of military foibles that recalls the satirical wallop of Catch 22, as well as some heft to the sagely absurd depiction of his homeland's history of political conspiracies and corruption." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Teasing, provocative, and very funny, Mohammed Hanif's debut novel takes one of the subcontinent's enduring mysteries and out if it spins a tale as rich and colourful as a beggar's dream.
Why did a Hercules C130, the world's sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan's military dictator General Zia ul Haq, go down on 17 August, 1988?
Was it because of:
1. Mechanical failure
2. Human error
3. The CIA's impatience
4. A blind woman's curse
5. Generals not happy with their pension plans
6. The mango season
Or could it be your narrator, Ali Shigri?
Here are the facts:
- A military dictator reads the Quran every morning as if it was his daily horoscope.
- Under Officer Ali Shigri carries a deadly message on the tip of his sword.
- His friend Obaid answers all life's questions with a splash of eau de cologne and a quote from Rilke.
- A crow has crossed the Pakistani border illegally.
As young Shigri moves from a mosque hall to his military barracks before ending up in a Mughal dungeon, there are questions that haunt him: What does it mean to betray someone and still love them? How many names does Allah really have? Who killed his father, Colonel Shigri? Who will kill his killers? And where the hell has Obaid disappeared to?
About the Author
Mohammed Hanif heads the BBCs Urdu service. He graduated from the Pakistan Air Force Academy and has since worked as a journalist and playwright. He lives in London.