Posted Nov 29, 2009 in Arts | 2 Comments

A Case of Exploding Mangoes Book Review

A Case of Exploding Mangoes

A Strong Case Against the Military

A Case of Exploding Mangoes is an award-winning first novel by Mohammad Hanif, a BBC journalist and ex-Air Force pilot. In this dark and engrossing novel, Hanif explores  the British military system that has thwarted progress in Pakistan for most of its 62 year existence.

Pakistan is a country that very few Westerners know much about, but with a population of over 176 million (and over 70 million expatriates), it is an undeniable force on the world stage. Pakistan’s investments exist in opposition to Canadian fiscal policy, with 75% of the country’s budget spent on the military and less than 2% on healthcare and education.  The results are readily apparent in social and political spheres.  The current climate of savagery and suicide bombings are not an organic creation of the state; the seeds of today’s strife in this nuclear-armed state were sown by the CIA with the unfaltering support of the US backed dictator General Zia ul Haq, the main villain in the book.

Mangoes tells the tale of how the universe was rid of this dictator in the bloody 1988 airplane crash that also took with it the cream of the military along and the US Ambassador to Pakistan. It is a humorous and educational read. We hear the perspective of a hot-blooded Air Force cadet, Ali Shigri, a poor blind girl named Zainab and a nameless crow; they all seem to have something to do with the crash that eventually took the country out of the grips of a tyrannical, fanatic dictator–at least for a few years until General Musharraf took back the reigns.

Class is the largest dividing factor among people in Pakistan. The military (the biggest employer in the country) ensures the perpetuation of this rigid system with its hierarchies of rank and status and its constant intrusion into affairs of the state. Though it does not directly deal with class, the book succinctly deals with Zia’s influence on education (and his version of Islam), his hand in curbing women’s rights and his contempt for democracy and freedom of speech.  It was Zia that converted children’s schools into religious institutions and privatized public institutions.

As Hillary Clinton wrapped up her visit to Pakistan, Todd Shea, the founder and director of CDRS Medical Relief In Pakistan wrote a scathing letter that stated that “Americans should see [their] leader’s abandonment of the region in the 90s like someone helping to start a wildfire and then leaving the scene, then coming back later while people’s houses are burning to the ground and human beings are engulfed in the flames of terror to publicly scold the brave firefighters who are putting their lives on the line about how they’re not doing enough to fight the fire–and then have the arrogant audacity to criticize the victimized families who live in the neighborhood about fire safety.”

Last week all universities and schools in the entire country have been ordered closed until further notice due to military action and “militant” reaction all over major cities of Pakistan. Today, the seeds of American intervention in the region (with the help of despots like Zia) bear fruit in the form of teenage suicide bombers exploding all over the country. Mangoes documents the paving of this road to hell.

Mohammad Hanif

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