Brazil and Pakistan

Published: June 6, 2012
The writer is executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies

The writer is executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies

Brazil attracted tourists from all over Europe for its triple ‘S’ appeal i.e., surfing, sun and sex. the world over, its carnivals were seen as synonymous with an extremely liberal society. Brazil was looked down upon as a country that offered cheap entertainment of all sorts; but not anymore. Their political elite are now struggling to rub off that image. The country is not cheap any more and doesn’t want to be known for the triple ‘S’. Today, it stands out as a mature democracy and is among the world’s ten largest roaring economies.

For us Pakistanis, Brazil also evokes some inescapable comparisons. Spread over 8.5 million square kilometres and home to the world’s largest forest reservoir, the Amazon, its transition into a mature democracy — from a country that suffered bouts of political instability, economic adversity and was plagued by brutal military dictatorships for decades — offers a remarkable success story. Brazil, too, won its independence from the Portuguese colonial rulers in 1822. It became a presidential republic in 1889, but full civilian rule returned to it in 1985, followed by the emergence of the federal republic in 1988, comprising 26 states.

Pakistan emerged from British colonial rule in 1947 and almost immediately sank into political cabals with landed aristocracy, which dominated the Pakistan Muslim League, leading a process that was laced with personal and inter-party feuds, thus paving the way for the military to step in. What began with General Ayub Khan, climaxed with General Ziaul Haq and ended with General Pervez Musharraf. All three introduced their own systems, primarily for self-perpetuation and guarding institutional interests.

On the contrary, in Brazil, General Ernesto Geisel laid the foundations of the present dispensation; he became president in 1974 and embarked on his project of re-democratisation. Geisel ended the military indiscipline that had plagued the country since 1889, as well as the torture of political prisoners, censorship of the press and finally dictatorship itself. The military regime continued under Geisel’s handpicked successor, General João Figueiredo, to complete the transition to full democracy.

What put Brazil on the path to economic growth and stability was the Plano Real (Royal or Real Plan) introduced by the former finance minister Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The peaceful transition of power to Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, who also won two terms in 2002 and 2006 respectively, underscored that Brazil had finally succeeded in achieving its long-sought political stability.

Pakistan’s misfortune, on the other hand, lay in personal greed, narrow-minded visions of democracy, conscious efforts to safeguard institutional interests and to put people in-charge of the economy, who had interests invested elsewhere.

What makes the two nations different is the way their leadership conceived the ‘nation-building project’. In Pakistan, the ruling elite — and foremost the military — raised the project on Islam and jihad. Through his cunning decree and game-plans, General Zia embedded his vision of development in Islam and jihad. The return to democracy in 1985 helped little in undoing his legacy of the Kashmir and Afghan jihad. Eventually the al Qaeda lapped up the jihadi zealots and their sociopolitical supporters within the society. The US used General Zia to mount the jihadi industry and then deployed General Musharraf to undo the consequences of that venture. The obvious consequence is the current debilitating security and economic crisis.

In Brazil, two generals — General Geisel and General Figueiredo — leaned on technocratic expertise and political wisdom to claw the country out of political instability and economic adversity. No Islam, no jihad. Pure secular national interest, solely routed politically and economically. And they did not renege on their promise of democratisation. Brazilians owe a lot of gratitude to the two generals for their current stability and growth. In contrast, Pakistanis owe their current political, economic and security crisis largely to two generals — General Zia and General Musharraf. They represented divisive forces within (Muslim League factions), while the Brazilian generals worked for unity.

Published In The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Wonderful
    Jun 6, 2012 - 10:55PM

    Gul saab, no one living Pakistan will believe you that all these Generals are responsible for this demise.


  • Ali tanoli
    Jun 6, 2012 - 11:14PM

    What a idea Gul sahab i dont have words what a irony that …..Recommend

  • hamza khan
    Jun 6, 2012 - 11:22PM

    while the army is responsible for many ills, the same generals provided stable economic progress and better living conditions, esp president musharraf who’s time is remembered as a ‘golden period’ by those who truly are impartial. another ‘axe to grind’ kind ET article who no facts or figures, just conjecture. Recommend

  • DigiDoc
    Jun 6, 2012 - 11:25PM

    Hey, that’s an idea. Pakistan has ‘fun’damentalists and ‘fan’atics! What fun!


  • BlackJack
    Jun 7, 2012 - 12:20AM

    Frankly I don’t see the comparison, unless you include any country which has experienced instability and military intervention in this list – which includes most of the third world nations. The fundamental difference is that all those years of misrule in Brazil did not radicalize the population – no one sold them the story that sending militants into Argentina or attacking Bolivia would guarantee them entry into paradise. Pakistan stands alone as a state that worked hard to attain its current level of excellence.


  • John B
    Jun 7, 2012 - 12:21AM

    Brazil is a long way and many in PAK do not know where it is. The author should have used his eastern neighbor,which everyone in PAK knows and compare and contrast is easy and informative without the generals.


  • Truthbetold
    Jun 7, 2012 - 12:29AM

    The biggest difference between Brazil and Pakistan is that Brazil was not created as as non-anything or as a religious state. Pakistan was created on the basis “we are non-Hindus” and Islam as the national foundation- the two nation theory. As a result, Pakistani Deep State created and maintained a perpetual enemy (India) and Kashmir as the 1000 rock wrapped around its feet. As a result, for the past 65 years Pakistan has concentrated all its energy and resources in confronting India and pursued a revisionist strategy. Brazil, on the other hand, had no perpetual enemy.


  • Babloo
    Jun 7, 2012 - 1:31AM

    Lets just say that Pakistan is a “unique” country.
    Comparing it to any other country is a futile, frustrating and un-productive exercise.


  • Jun 7, 2012 - 1:34AM

    So the Generals are responsible for everything and what of the Mullahs? They get away scott free ?


  • vasan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:27AM

    Blackjack :
    “Pakistan stands alone as a state that worked hard to attain its current level of excellence”
    You are spot on .


  • ayesha_khan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 7:00AM

    Seriously Brazil and Pakistan? Why not Pakistan and Kenya? Pakistan and Uganda? All of these countries have had dictators?

    Would it not have been obvious to compare India and Pakistan? Got independence at the same time. Had similar bureaucracy, infrastructure; culture, levels of poverty and illiteracy but took very different routes in terms of foreign policy, civil-military balance and approach to diversity (linguistic, religious, ethnic).


  • KDP
    Jun 7, 2012 - 8:09AM

    the only difference I notice is that the Brazilians were not Muslims!!!


  • ayesha_khan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 9:42AM

    @KDP: “the only difference I notice is that the Brazilians were not Muslims!!!”

    Really? How many times have the Brazilians attacked their neighbours? HAs Brazil allowed itself to become Crusade central?


  • Noor
    Jun 7, 2012 - 11:01AM

    things are brighter on the opposite sides!!!!!


  • Sultan Khan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 12:57PM

    Its totally absurd to compare Pakistan with Brazil- two countries totally different in every aspect of life; history, religion, surroundings, composition, mindset and most of all the politicians. The politicians of India (which doesn’t boast of martial races) were wise and sane and they never gave any chance to military to take over. Moreover, the days of military rulers were thousand times better for the common man as compared to the civilian rulers. They provided stability and growth for the country whereas the democracy has become a tool in the hands of landlords, industrialists and their abetters under the guise of “civil society” and the so called “free judiciary” to exploit the masses in the name of democracy


  • Riaz Khan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 1:58PM

    Pakistan is a FUNNYYY country!


  • bangash
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:34PM

    Good comparison Mr Gul. I think an excellent comparison of Pakistan can also be to Bangladesh who also went through dictatorships and today are doing well. Pakistani military must absolve itself of politics and militancy and then maybe the country can begin to heal.


  • Mirza
    Jun 7, 2012 - 7:11PM

    One of the best and balanced Op Ed after a very long time. The Latin American countries were also plundered by the generals but they have become democratic and economic powerhouses. They went secular and neutral not fanatic religious. They are tourist paradise not the safe haven for terrorists. Their masses are happy and making progress while we have bombs Recommend

  • Peeru Shah
    Jun 7, 2012 - 8:14PM

    I wish we had Generals like Brazilia too….
    Informative Op Ed….


  • Raja Islam
    Jun 7, 2012 - 11:14PM

    @hamza khan:
    Musharraf’s period was far from golden. Al that happened was a lot of borrowing and spending and killing whatever little democracy we had. Even though Zia was by far the worst ruler we have ever had, Musharraf was not far behind. In fact Zia was a fundamentalist and a dictator, but Musharraf’s slogan was that he will bring “true” democracy to Pakistan and he portrayed himself as a liberal. In some ways he was more hypocritical than Zia.


  • Amjad
    Jun 8, 2012 - 9:01AM

    @hamza khan: I think most people, myself included would say that Musharraf’s 9 years rule did more harm than good and most of current problems including lack of energy are due to the poor governance associated with his rule. Just think about the loss of revenue and damage to Pakistan’s infrastructure that took place when Musharraf gifted transit rights through Pakistan for next to nothing.Recommend

  • Jun 8, 2012 - 5:00PM

    Apart from National level comparison, Brazil and Pakistan have another interesting similarity and that is the condition of Karachi and Rio de Janeiro. Where law enforcement institutions have been struggling hard to gain control. However, Brazil normalized the situation after successful operation in November 2010. We can imitate their strategies and vision to make Karachi a peaceful city once again.


  • Raw is War
    Jun 8, 2012 - 5:03PM

    Pakistan and Brazil. Where is the comparision?

    Pakistan – most covered country for women.
    Brazil – Least covered country for women.


  • Jun 9, 2012 - 3:15PM

    It’s a poorly researched opinion.Pakistan and Brazil are pole apart in every respect and any attempt to compare them will tantamount to injustice to both.Brazilians as a whole,with vast natural resources,realised it’s potentials and worked as a cohesive force to actualise them in result.Though like others I support democracy at home but the bleak and hopeless performance of civilians from 1947 to date,my patriotism dictates to appreciate the good work the military regime did in the country.The country is still benefitting from the good work they did.


  • imtiaz gul
    Jun 17, 2012 - 2:06PM

    @Mohammed Abbasi: The generals promoted Mullas and Madrassa and coopted into the defense doctrine.And we see the result today.


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