Pakistan gets surveyed: No major surprises
A couple of surveys have been released about Pakistan recently. The first, was an Al Jazeera commissioned survey done by Gallup Pakistan; which delivers a fairly interesting insight into the way prospective voters are viewing issues about Pakistan.
Points of note:
Asif Ali Zardari’s unpopularity
Much has been made of this: a 42% disapproval rating is fairly high. But what’s interesting is that the disapproval ratings are as high amongst voters for the PPP as well as its coalition partners, notably the ANP and MQM. This may not bode well for the President in the long run; if the parties decide to breakaway and forge a partnership with the PML-N – whose leader Nawaz Sharif is said by 38% of respondents (the highest) to be the ‘best’ leader for the country, President Zardari may find himself in trouble. Though there seems to be little chance of that happening unless another constitutional crisis emerges.
Next up, is good news for the army – the military operation in FATA has found approval in Pakistan. In 2008, the Taliban were considered unfavourable by 33% of respondents – in 2009, its gone up to 70%. Combine the number of suicide bombings, attacks on army and police installations and the influx of terror tales from Swat and that was a shift that was bound to happen; but I have personally been fairly cynical trying to figure out if the operation has found popularity, given the lackluster response to fundraising for the IDPs in the cities. The Al Jazeera survey puts the number at 42% for approval of the military operation.
But while the Taliban may be down on the popularity graph, what’s interesting is that the respondents of the Pew survey approve of the strict punishments (ala those in KSA) that the Taliban would have brought in. As the report pointed out:
The new poll finds broad support for harsh punishments: 78% favor death for those who leave Islam; 80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery; and 83% favor stoning adulterers.
But all isn’t lost..
Pakistani public opinion departs significantly from the Taliban on the issues of girls’ education and extremist violence.
As many as 87% of Pakistanis believe it is equally important for boys and girls to be educated.
The poll also finds that support for suicide bombing that targets civilians in defense of Islam remains very low.
Only 5% of Pakistani Muslims believe these kinds of attacks can often or sometimes be justified; as recently as 2004 roughly four-in-ten (41%) held this view. Fully 87% now say such attacks can never be justified – the highest percentage among the Muslim publics included in the 2009 survey.
The shift over the years, from 2002-2009 is interesting because the countries surveyed (seen above) have seen a massive increase in suicide attacks. The Iraq invasion saw a rise in the number of suicide bombings – from 25 in 2003 to 257 in 2008, and Pakistan – as mentioned above – has seen a huge increase over the years. So the shift in the perception is highly important if the military expects and wants the country to be fully on board with the military operation.
The survey also points out the usual: the unpopularity of the US. This isn’t a surprise – the US has been considered extremely hostile and unpopular over the decades, with an escalation in public opinion in 2003 (My assumption is that the hike was because of the Iraq war and the attack the year before at the US consulate in Karachi).
Sadly for the US administration though, the views extend to President Barack Obama and the US is still being counted as a ‘threat’ to the country. I particularly find it interesting that the least ratings are given to two countries that get a lot of aid from the US – Pakistan and Jordan; and we can expect a refrain of ‘oh those ungrateful Pakistanis!’ considering the US has given $15 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001.
The Washington Post quoted US Defense Secretary Robert Gates who was asked about the Pew group’s survey results:
Asked Thursday about a new poll of Pakistanis indicating that 64 percent view the United States as an enemy, Gates said, “The Pakistanis probably — and with some legitimacy — question . . . how long are we prepared to stay there?” He said that “we walked away from them” after the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in 1989 and that assistance was restricted in the 1990s because of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
Although a close relationship was developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, “it’s going to take us some time to rebuild confidence” with the Pakistani people, he said.
They have a fairly uphill task ahead. Check out the survey results:
On a personal note, today’s Independence Day and last night the Jamaat-e-Islami activisits were roaming around the neighborhood I live in (in Karachi) with a loudspeaker in tow, imploring Pakistanis to rise up against US domination.
But so, if the Pakistanis disapprove of the US and President Obama and their own President Zardari, who do they appreciate?
The military and the media top the list as positive influences on the country. More kudos for the military here and I suspect every channel CEO in the country will be going ‘ha-ha!’ to their detractors. However it only serves to highlight how important it is that the Pakistani media reports responsibly on internal affairs. The level of straight-out biases has become fairly ridiculous but if you do sift through the number of channels, magazines and newspapers, atleast Pakistanis have every sort of opinion available to them in the mainstream media. I’m a bit surprised at ‘religious leaders’ but what’s even more interesting is that the ISI is cited as a better influence than President Zardari. Given how much flak the ISI gets, when even Zardari is ranked lower, its something to think about.