Hearts and Mind Department

Posted by sepoy on December 21, 2005 · 8 mins read

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:

73% of Pakistanis surveyed in November 2005 now believe suicide terrorist attacks are never

justified, up from 46% just last May.

• 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


• 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%.

• For the first time since 9/11, more Pakistanis are now favorable to the United States than


• 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.

• 79% of those with confidence in Bin Laden now have a more favorable view of the US

because of American earthquake aid.

• 81% said that earthquake relief was important for them in forming their overall opinion of

the United States.

• 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]:

Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the U.S. than at any time since 9/11, while support for al Qaeda in its home base has dropped to its lowest level since then. The direct cause for this dramatic shift in Muslim opinion is clear: American humanitarian assistance for Pakistani victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake that killed 87,000. The U.S. pledged $510 million for earthquake relief in Pakistan and American soldiers are playing a prominent role in rescuing victims from remote mountainous villages.

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:

Q9: In your opinion, which of the following has been the most helpful in providing assistance to

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’t 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.


Sofia | December 24, 2005

"I don’t see MQM in this poll, which is surprising.' Am I missing a point here? Why did you single out MQM for inclusion in this poll? There were other players too namely; Edhi Trust, Christian Missions, other political parties and the list goes on.

Jawwad S | December 24, 2005

not agreed.. i think US favourablity is goin down more and more

Suhail Kazi | December 24, 2005

OT: What are you 'defending'? I didn't get it.

sepoy | December 24, 2005

sofia: Edhi & christian missions being non-political actors. but you are right, i should have noted that PPP and ML-x are also missing in this poll. suhail: i have no clue what you are asking, mate.

Suhail Kazi | December 27, 2005

Your main page says CM is going to change/mutate and that you are going to defend in the next few months. for which you need to focus your energies. That is what I am asking, sir. ps:I didn't mean to leave that deep permalink of some obscure post of mine in the last comment. It was a wrong pick from the cache's URL dropdown list.

sepoy | December 27, 2005

suhail: ah, yes, sorry about that. it would be my dissertation, that I could be defending in the next few months.

reformist muslim | January 04, 2006

Very interesting and to the most part I would agree with you. However a lot of jihadists do actually come from the urban lower-middle and middle classes and a lot of the rural population is in fact quite easy going and not concerned with global politics. Also I don't get why the MQM would be on the list as it is a Karachi based political organisation which probably wouldn't be involved in large scale relief efforts. Excluding Edhi on the other hand is unforgivable and I would guess that it would easily be top of the list.