WASHINGTON: The vast majority of Pakistanis are unhappy with their country’s direction and a growing number see the domestic Taliban as a threat, said a survey released Tuesday ahead of elections.
The poll by the Pew Research Center found that 91 per cent of Pakistanis were dissatisfied with the direction of the country and that a mere 14 per cent saw President Asif Ali Zardari favorably.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, seen as a front-runner in Saturday’s election, was viewed favorably by 66 per cent of Pakistanis and 60 per cent held positive views of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan.
However, the poll was taken in March, when Pakistan was just starting the campaign for what could be the country’s first democratic transition of power. Pew conducted 1,201 in-person interviews across Pakistan.
The poll found overwhelming alarm at crime and terrorism. Forty-nine per cent described the Taliban as a “very serious threat” to Pakistan, for the first time nearly equaling those who said the same about historic rival India.
Despite concerns about the Taliban, the vast majority opposed US drone attacks against militants, saying they killed too many civilians. Two-thirds welcomed US plans to pull troops out of neighboring Afghanistan next year.
Unlike in much of the world, Pakistani opinions of the United States have grown only more negative since President Barack Obama succeeded George W Bush, with only 11 per cent saying they had a positive image of the country.
A majority said that US assistance to Pakistan — including a $7.5 billion civilian aid package unveiled in 2009 in hopes of improving the relationship – had no or even a negative impact.
Despite wide pessimism about the country’s direction, 79 per cent of Pakistanis praised the impact of the military — long a key power center — and smaller majorities voiced confidence in religious leaders, the media and the courts.