The Pakistanis responded to this rather warmly; the trouble I got into was entirely on our side: how dare you compare us with Pakistan, draw equivalence of any kind? The art of assassination on the Internet was still a little young, but it was a nasty new tryst with the virtual mob. A decade later, how does that theory stand the test of time?
Whether our democracy is less or more imperfect may be a contentious issue and we can debate that at some point later (though I’d argue it is more robust, liberal and merrily noisier than in 2002). But look at the stunning developments in Pakistan over the past weeks. An elected government, a weak one at that, is staring down the GHQ and the ISI. It has sacked a defence secretary for leaning towards the army, told the army chief and the corps commanders—that uniquely Pakistani equivalent of the Chinese Politburo or the Iranian Supreme Cultural Revolution Council—where to get off, and it is still in office. And this is a government run by a party fast losing political capital and run by utterly lightweight leaders.
A prime minister enormously more powerful and popular than the present lot, Benazir Bhutto, was fired by the then president, acting at the army’s behest, for a minor traffic offence in comparison: all she did was get carried away by the fall of the Berlin Wall and ask, in a speech she delivered at the Command and Staff College at