Ahistoricality kindly drew my attention to a recent poll on attitudes towards US, UbL and Terrorism in Pakistan in the wake of the October Earthquake undertaken by Terror Free Tomorrow. The poll was conducted over November 14-28, 2005 and has a error margin of 2.6%. It has a significant data pool [1450 adults]. Here is the pdf of the report. Below the fold is my reading of the poll.
The poll-report gives the following conculsions:
justified, up from 46% just last May.
‚Ä¢ Support for Osama Bin Laden has declined significantly (51% favorable in May 2005 to just
33% in November), while those who oppose him rose over the same period from 23% to
‚Ä¢ US favorability among Pakistanis has doubled from 23% in May to more than 46% now,
while the percentage of Pakistanis with very unfavorable views declined from 48% to 28%.
‚Ä¢ For the first time since 9/11, more Pakistanis are now favorable to the United States than
‚Ä¢ 78% of Pakistanis have a more favorable opinion of the United States because of the
American response to the earthquake, with the strongest support among those under 35.
‚Ä¢ 79% of those with confidence in Bin Laden now have a more favorable view of the US
because of American earthquake aid.
‚Ä¢ 81% said that earthquake relief was important for them in forming their overall opinion of
the United States.
‚Ä¢ The United States fared better in Pakistani public opinion than both other Western countries
and radical Islamist groups.
As I argued earlier, the memory of helpers will surely linger and help shape the public opinion in the years to come. In another recent post, I hinted that the response of Pakistani army to the victims of the 1970 cyclone in East Pakistan had an immense effect on the civil war that followed next year. So, it is obvious from both a historical and political context that the response to the Earthquake will have long reaching effects. This poll could be a harbinger of such tidings. Already, Hussain Haqqani and Kenneth Balen – advisor and president, respectively of the polling organization – put up an op-ed in WSJ saying [do catch the snipe at UN in the oped]:
Cheers, eh? I am not entirely sold that this polls shows a overwhelming positive outlook across Pakistan. If you look at the methodology, they say that the poll covered “disproportionately urban covering all Pakistani provinces”. Well, hate to break the bubble but the urban populations are not the problem here. Yes, they are a good indicator but with 60 plus percent of the population in rural areas, and the majority of religious activists operating in those areas, I just don’t think we can start making blanket Pakistanis loves US statement right away. The key questions Please tell me if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the United States? and I favor the U.S-led efforts to fight terrorism, OR I oppose the U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism? get diametric responses: 46% favorable and 64% opposed. Again, that goes according to many, many polls that show that it is primarily the opposition to US foreign policy that drives the negative opinions and, despite of that, there remains favorable opinion of the US even in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia [at least the NeoCons always pointed to that for their ‘greet us with rose petals’ routine]. Pakistan, on the other hand, has always had strong pro-US sentiments in the populace. So, in that context, it should be noted that the opposition for War on Terror, actually, has grown since May 2005. I do think that the drop of support for UbL and suicide bombing is significant. How do we tie it to the Kashmir earthquake is not so clear to me. Obviously, the response of sectarian violence has more to do with it.
Most intriguing for the political future of Pakistan is question 9:
the earthquake victims? Please rank from most helpful to least helpful.
a. The United States
b. Western countries (United Kingdom and France)
c. Islamic countries (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait)
d. Islamist groups in Pakistan (Jamaat ul-Dawa, the Al-Rasheed Trust, and the Jamaat-i-
e. The Government of Pakistan
|Rank 1||Rank 2||Rank 3||Rank 4||Rank 5||Don‚Äôt Know|
|The United States||21.8%||20.2%||19.5%||19.4%||17.2%||1.8%|
|Western countries (United Kingdom and France)||5.1%||10.9%||17.7%||29.9%||34.6%||1.9%|
|Islamic countries (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait)||23.9%||23.9%||26.0%||15.2%||9.2%||1.9%|
|Islamist groups in Pakistan (Jamaat ul-Dawa, the Al-Rasheed Trust, and the Jamaat-i-Islami)||15.2%||22.8%||18.0%||21.3%||21.0%||1.7%|
|The Government of Pakistan||32.5%||20.7%||17.0%||12.3%||16.1%||1.5%|
Here, you see that it is the Goverment of Pakistan that has risen to the top. Which is surely a good sign for The General but then, again, the cities is not where he has problems [that would be in Waziristan and Baluchistan]. And a bad sign for the MMA because they ended with a solidly unfavorable rating. I don’t see MQM in this poll, which is surprising.
Now, if only someone would go and conduct this poll in Azad Kashmir and NWFP, we will start getting an inkling. All that aside, I happen to agree that positive American contributions in Pakistan and elsewhere will lead to positive results. Grand gestures, included. In the meantime, the crisis in Kashmir continues.