Of wit, wisdom, and service to the written word – In conversation with Mohammed Hanif

“I’ve written three books, and after writing each one I thought that I had the method figured out…but I’ve actually had to create a new method every time.” says Mohammad Hanif as he walks us through his journey of becoming an author and navigating the world of journalism. 

Mohammad Hanif is a Pakistani journalist with multiple opinion pieces in The New York Times. In addition to being a correspondent for the BBC News, he has authored the critically acclaimed books, A Case of Exploding Mangoes and Our Lady Alice Bhatti.

Watch our conversation with him as he talks about becoming an author (00:45), the process of writing his first novel (3:10), his thoughts on self-censorship (5:06), the changes in our reading culture (7:37) and social media (9:44). 

Hanif recalls the days when he was selected into the Air Force, and how that was where his love for reading and writing unexpectedly began; in the extensive libraries of the PAF Academy. He eventually ventured into journalism, and being fascinated by the case of General Zia’s plane crash in 1988, soon found himself writing A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Hanif then quickly established himself as a satirical author who tackles, mainly political, subjects that are difficult to talk about.

He says, “Self-censorship is dangerous because you’ve decided, even before doing something, that it can’t be done.” and maintains that although freedom in journalism is difficult to achieve, the journalists themselves can still push for independence. His 2013 short book, The Baloch Who Is Not Missing Anymore and Others Who Are, where he tells the story of missing Balochis and the ordeal their families have to go through is a prime example of Hanif’s provoking work.

His latest work, Red Birds, published in 2018, revolves around similar themes of family, war, and politics, and is available at Liberty Books.

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