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Pakistani Writer Says Parody About Ex-Dictator Zia Confiscated

Mohammad Hanif speaks during an interview with AFP in Islamabad in September.
Mohammad Hanif speaks during an interview with AFP in Islamabad in September.

A prominent Pakistani writer and New York Times columnist has said that purported Pakistani security agents raided the Karachi office of his publisher and confiscated all copies of a novel he wrote about the country's former military dictator, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq.

Novelist Mohammad Hanif said on Twitter that the January 6 raid was carried out by "some people claiming to be from" Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

"They asked about my book and took all copies of it," Hanif said, adding that he was consulting his lawyer about filing a complaint with police.

But an ISI spokesman rejected Hanif's claim as a "cheap attempt to gain popularity by hurling false accusations on a national institution."

Hanif's acclaimed novel, A Case Of Exploding Mangoes, is a parody about Zia, a former dictator who seized power in a 1977 military coup and was killed in a plane crash in 1988.

Authorities never released the results of their investigation nor said what had caused the crash, which also killed U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphel and then-ISI chief General Akhtar Abdur Rahman.

Hanif rose to fame when the novel was first published in English in 2008. His Karachi-based publisher released an Urdu translation of the novel in October 2019.

"A Case of Exploding Mangoes has been in publication for 11 years now," Hanif said on Twitter. "Nobody has ever bothered me. Why now? I am sitting here, wondering when will they come for us."

Hanif also said he had received "a defamation notice from General Zia's son" Ejaz ul-Haq last week demanding 1 billion Pakistani rupees (about $6.4 million) "for maligning General Zia's good name."

"Our lawyers are preparing a reply," Hanif said. "Is ISI acting on Ejazul Haq's behalf?"

With reporting by AP and Dawn
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