Celebrated writer Mohammed Hanif on Monday said that some people claiming to be from an intelligence agency had raided the offices of his Urdu publisher today and confiscated all copies of the translated version of his 2008 bestseller A Case of Exploding Mangoes.
Taking to Twitter, Hanif said the persons, claiming to belong to the Inter-services Intelligence (ISI), after barging into the offices of Maktaba Daniyal had also threatened its manager and sought "information about our whereabouts".
He said the people would come back tomorrow to get lists of booksellers selling the novel.
Pakistani military satire Mangoes, which chronicles the final days of hardline dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s rule and the myriad conspiracies behind the plane crash that killed him in 1988, was released in Urdu late last year.
Hanif in another tweet said they had last week received a defamation notice from Gen Zia’s son demanding Rs1 billion for maligning the former military ruler's name. "Our lawyers are preparing a reply. Is ISI acting on Ejazul Haq’s behalf?" he asked.
A former fighter pilot turned journalist, novelist and librettist, Hanif noted that his novel has been in publication for 11 years.
"Nobody has ever bothered me. Why now? I am sitting here, wondering when will they come for us. ISI is World’s No 1 spy agency. I am sure they have better things to do. I have my school run tomorrow," he wrote.
While Mangoes was set in Zia’s Pakistan, it was first released in English during the violent rule of another military dictator, Pervez Musharraf. It coincided with Hanif’s return to Pakistan after spending nearly 12 years in London with the BBC.
Internationally, the novel earned glowing reviews and was longlisted for the Booker Prize, with critics comparing Hanif to famous satire writers Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) "deplored" the raid at the publishing house.
"The authorities must revoke this action immediately," HRCP said in a tweet.
"This is a craven attempt to stifle artistic freedom of expression. The original work, a political satire set in Gen Zia-ul-Haq's time, came out 11 years ago and has remained a bestseller in Pakistan and abroad for years. @mohammedhanif was also awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz," the HRCP said in a subsequent tweet.