Urban Pakistanis Show Weak Support for Crackdown on al-Qaida

Interesting findings on Pakistani public opinion from WorldPublicOpinion.org:

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll finds that just 44 percent of urban Pakistanis favor sending the Pakistani army to the Northwestern tribal areas to “pursue and capture al Qaeda fighters.” Only 48 percent would allow the Pakistan army to act against “Taliban insurgents who have crossed over from Afghanistan.” In both cases, about a third oppose such military action and a fifth decline to answer.

Pakistanis reject overwhelmingly the idea of permitting foreign troops to attack al Qaeda on Pakistani territory. Four out of five (80%) say their government should not allow American or other foreign troops to enter Pakistan to pursue and capture al Qaeda fighters.” Three out of four (77%) oppose allowing foreign troops to attack Taliban insurgents based in Pakistan.

These are some of the results of a poll of 907 Pakistanis conducted in urban areas Sept. 12-28, 2007. The findings also reveal that a majority of urban Pakistanis believe their government’s decision to attack militants holding the Red Mosque in Islamabad was a mistake.

The finding about foreign troops is not at all surprising, but the weak public support for an army crackdown on al-Qaida and other Islamists in the northwest tribal areas is more so. Analysts of Pakistani politics continually point to the historically very weak support for Islamist political parties in elections as evidence that Pakistan as a nation is in less danger of becoming an Islamic theocracy than might be imagined.

Of course, opposition to a military crackdown on Islamists and weak support for Islamists politically are not at all mutually exclusive. And this finding could be parsed in all kinds of ways. It is likely, for example, that the findings are a reflection of weak support for the Pakistani army at the moment, and weak support for the government of Pervez Musharraf.

WorldPublicOpinion.org is project of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. Here’s the key information about this poll’s methodology:

This survey of the urban population of Pakistan was carried out by AC Nielsen – Pakistan
using a questionnaire developed by WorldPublicOpinion.org. All interviewing was
conducted in Urdu. A total of 907 face-to-face interviews across 182 primary sampling
units in 19 Pakistan cities were carried out between September 12 and September 28,
2007. Sampling error for a sample of this size is approximately +/- 3.3 percentage points.

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