Pakistan likes Al Qaeda more than America
The US is in the middle of a $7.5 billion aid program to Pakistan. But America's image is slipping in the country, where its unfavorable rating is almost as bad as the Taliban's and even Al Qaeda is more popular.
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Several people express the view that the Taliban were not behind attacks on two-Ahmadi sect mosques in May that killed more than 100 people, or the attack on the Data Ganj Baksh shrine in Lahore in July that killed some 40 people.Skip to next paragraph
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“Who can say who carried out these attacks? No Muslims could have possibly attacked other Muslims like this,” says Riaz Ahmad, a parking attendant.
Whisper campaigns and drone allegations
Whisper campaigns, carried out by extremist organizations and often circulated by text messages, are partly to blame for the proliferation of such theories, says Professor Fair, and may be backed by Pakistan’s military establishment. “Such campaigns are fostered by the establishment itself to continue to create the space where they can turn around and tell the US they are being limited. So they can say 'Give us more goodies and we’ll hate you less.'”
The threat to civilian life posed by US predator drones, she says, is similarly overblown and helps foment hatred towards America. “The discourse around the drones obfuscates the fact that the drones are operated from a Pakistani airflield,” she says, adding that the number of civilian casualties reported in the Pakistani media are “not realistic.”
While more educated and affluent Pakitanis generally recognize Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Punjab-based militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba as a threat, few trust America or view it as a reliable ally.
“[The Americans] look after their own strategic interests when it suits them. They stop supporting Pakistan when it doesn’t suit them,” says Jalal Hussain, a law student. He is among the minority who describe the Islamist insurgency in the country’s northwest as “the most serious threat facing Pakistan right now."
Pakistanis dissatisfied with leaders
The survey also shows that Pakistanis have a bleak view of their own country: 84 percent of Pakistanis are dissatisfied with the state of their nation, and 78 percent say the current economic situation is very bad or somewhat bad. President Zardari’s popularity ratings have dropped to about 20 percent, down from 64 percent when he took office.
According to the survey, there is widespread support for harsher Islamic punishments in Pakistan, with 82 percent in favor of stoning to death adulterers and 76 percent in favor of the death penalty for apostasy. Eighty-five percent expressed support for gender segregation in the workplace.
Such statistics should be treated with caution, says Fair of Georgetown University.
“An inherent flaw with such questions is what is known as ‘social desirability bias’, where the respondent anticipates what answer might be socially desirable. Very few people are going to reject options that are going to sound more Islamic because they might be judged by the questioner,” she says.
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