Even as thousands of protesters, respectively led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, descended on Islamabad against the Nawaz Sharif led government, a survey by the Pew Research Centre shows that the under fire premier enjoys significant public support.
According to the report, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif enjoys 64% favourable opinion, slightly lower than the 66% he enjoyed just a few weeks before the May 2013 elections. In contrast, 32% viewed him unfavourably.
These are among the major findings from the latest survey in Pakistan by the Pew Research Center, based on face-to-face interviews conducted with 1,203 respondents from April 15 to May 7, 2014. The sample covers approximately 82% of the country’s adult population.
Imran Khan, who has been demanding that the premier resign to pave way for a transparent investigation into the reports of rigging in the 2013 elections, was seen favourably as well with 53% reviews against 24% negative reviews. However, the PTI chief’s ratings have slipped by 17% since elections last May.
The mood surrounding the current political and economic situation in the country, while less than happy, it is more positive than in recent years. While only 25% of the respondents were satisfied with the way things are in Pakistan, this is more than 8% who felt that way in 2013. Those who were optimistic about the economy have more than doubled since last year, rising from 17% to 37%. And 36% expect the economy to improve further in the next 12 months.
Pakistan, which has seen four military led governments, 87% of the respondents believe that the army is having a good influence on the nation. Up from 79% near the May 2013 elections.
The poll found little support for extremist groups in Pakistan, against whom the army launched an operation in June. Only 8% gave the Taliban a positive rating and just 12% said they have a favorable opinion of al Qaeda.
India still the biggest enemy
When asked to rate the greatest threat facing their country , 51% of Pakistanis pointed towards India.
Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) expressed an unfavorable view of India, while only 13% give it a positive rating.
At the time of the survey, conducted before results for the recent Indian national elections were announced, 62% of Pakistanis did not know enough about India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say whether they had confidence in his ability to do the right thing in world affairs. Just over a third (36%) said they have little or no confidence in Modi to do the right thing in world affairs, while only 1% expressed confidence in Modi.
US still viewed unfavourably
Negative views of the United States and Obama still prevail in Pakistan. Only 14% give the US a favorable rating, and just 7% have confidence in President Barack Obama.
Still, the percentage of Pakistanis voicing a negative views of the US and Obama has declined slightly over the last few years.
Very few Pakistanis give President Barack Obama a positive review. Only 7% say they have confidence that Obama will do the right thing in world affairs. While half (52%) of all respondents lack confidence in the American leader, unchanged from 2013, but that perception was down from a peak of 68% in 2011. Fully 41% offer no opinion about Obama.
Drone strikes remain unpopular too. Two-in-three Pakistanis oppose US drone attacks, while just 3% approve and 30% offer no opinion. Two-thirds of Pakistanis also believe that drone strikes kill too many innocent people, and only 21% think they are necessary to defend the country from extremist groups. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) say the drone strikes are being conducted without the approval of Pakistan’s government.