The Late Dictator

From The New York Times:

Hanif Mohammed Hanif’s exuberant first novel, “A Case of Exploding Mangoes,” extends this tradition of assassination fiction and shifts it east to Pakistan. The death at its center is that of Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan from 1978 to 1988. Zia’s fate is one of Pakistan’s two great political mysteries, the other being the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The established facts concerning his death are as follows. That on Aug. 17, 1988, after inspecting a tank demonstration in the Punjab, Zia boarded a C-130 Hercules — “Pak One” — to fly back to Islamabad. That he was accompanied on board by a number of his senior army generals, as well as by the American ambassador to Pakistan, Arnold Raphel. That shortly before takeoff, crates of mangoes were loaded onto the plane. That shortly after takeoff, the C-130 began to fly erratically, alternately dipping and rising: a flight phenomenon known to aviation experts as “phugoid.” And that the plane crashed soon after, killing all on board.

Theories as to the cause of the crash have ranged from simple machine failure to the idea that one of the mango crates contained a canister of nerve gas, which, when dispersed by the plane’s air-conditioning system, killed both pilots. Among those many groups or persons suspected of being behind the assassination — if assassination it was — are the C.I.A, Mossad, the K.G.B., Murtaza Bhutto (Benazir’s brother) and Indian secret agents, as well as one of Zia’s right-hand men, Gen. Aslam Beg.

More here.