Boom! The ending drops right at the beginning: that Zia ul-Haq will die.
Much like in the novel that is referenced, The Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammad Hanif.
Set during the military rule of President Zia ul-Haq, A Case of Exploding Mangoes looks at the fictional events leading to his death and alleged assassination. For most part of the novel, the story fluctuates between the President’s viewpoint and that of the protagonist, the wry and indifferent junior military officer, Ali Shigri, who himself is haunted by the death of his own father who was also in the military and who he believes was killed on the President’s orders.
Through Zia ul-Haq’s viewpoint, we see the fears that plague him and the religiousness of the man who uses the Koran as almost a prophetic device to guide his everyday actions. Much like in Wilkie Collin’s novel, The Moonstone, where one of the characters uses the book, Robinson Crusoe, for seeing the future.
This is how we first see the President as well: ruminating over the different translations of a verse about Jonah; finding meaning in it and deciding to up his security level to Code Red.
On the other side, we see Ali Shigri, who views and comments on everything in a cold, calculating and sarcastic manner (even his own brief stint with prison) as if nothing effects him. He is portrayed as a tough and dedicated officer but who lands in trouble due to his missing roommate, Obaid, with whom it is suspected he was very close to. Both land up being held for hatching a plot to kill the President and through this we see the elaborate conspiracies and schemes wrought by the Intelligence Agencies and government to keep the many suspects at bay (or more precisely in prison!).
We know the the President is going to die. We know the moment we start reading the last section of the book titled, Mango Party. Yet, this foreshadowing does not dull any of our excitement since the narration is done at a suspenseful pace that keeps one on tenterhooks. We are racing towards that one final moment where not just the President explodes but so do many, juicy mangoes, along with a unlucky crow! While racing ahead, we see the many threads coming together, we see who is plotting against whom and how this will end!
Got to read the book, my friend!
Start with the first chapter here:
P.S. Read reviews of his second novel, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, below: