Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Pre-election views of Pakistanis on economy, political leaders, and internal and external threats

by Salman Hameed


Pakistan's elections are scheduled for May 11th. There have already been a tremendous number of casualties - mostly by the Taliban (of the Pakistani flavor) targeting the relatively more secular parties. Here is from the horse's mouth:
“Taliban shura had decided to target those secular political parties which were part of the previous coalition government and involved in the operation in Swat, Fata and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwah,”adding that “the organisation followed the instructions of the Taliban shura and that it was the shura that decided which political parties to target, where and when.” 
To another query that the Taliban were making ground and paving way for some parties to win the elections and denying space to others, he said: “neither we are against nor in favour of the PTI, PML- N, JI and JUI-F,” adding  that “We are against the secular and democratic system which is against the ideology of Islam but we are not expecting any good from the other parties either, who are the supporters of the same system, but why they are not targeted is our own prerogative to decide.”
Shamefully, none of the parties not targeted by the Taliban have unequivocally condemned this Taliban assault on democracy. But to add to the uncertainty, just a few hours ago, Imran Khan of PTI also got injured when he fell off a lifter while getting on a stage for a political rally. This is big news as he is one of the leading contenders in the upcoming elections.

But what are the major concerns of Pakistanis? The Pew forum has a new survey out that focuses on Pakistan. Perhaps, not surprisingly, crime and terrorism is at the top at 95 and 93% respectively. But note that even Sunni-Shia tensions are labeled as a "very big problem" by over half of the respondents, and the conflict between the government with the judiciary and the military is not considered that much of a problem.


At the same time, most people also feel that the country is on the wrong path, with Zardari's approval ratings in the teens (and that is the least surprising result of the survey):


Here is a graphical representation of the opinion on the direction of the country. Note that 2007 was the start of major Taliban incursions into Pakistan (not completely unrelated to the US drone policy in the tribal regions - but that really picked up from 2009 onwards), an increase in suicide bombings in major cities and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The following years also saw its impact on the economy. 

But then check this out. The Taliban are seen as much of a threat as India. This is important as often people think that there is widespread for Taliban. But this poll suggests that there is broad recognition of the danger posed by the Taliban: 

Similarly, there is very little support for the various extremist groups, including those that are focusing on Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the question does include those groups that are primarily involved in targeting Ahmadi and Shia minorities. In any case, here are the views on extremist groups:

But there is still support for the military, religious leaders, the media, and even the courts (despite their utmost effort to destroy the trust gained in the Lawyers' movement). As per religious leaders, it would have been interesting to see individual names instead of a generic religious leader which people may idealize in a particular way.  Ah - but the poor police - it is only above Zardari...


You can find the full report here.

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