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Terrorism & Security

Poll: Pakistanis worried about Taliban, economy

The survey found only 10 percent of the population is worried about terrorism, but 69 percent said the Taliban and Al Qaeda were a problem.

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According to the Press Trust of India, Mr. Sharif's support grew sharply after government efforts to bar him and his brother, Shabaz Sharif, the governor of Punjab Province, from holding elected office. The poll was conducted during the campaign to rescind that ban, an effort that was ultimately successful. 

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The time-frame in which the poll was conducted coincided with the climax of a movement launched by Sharif and his brother Shabaz Sharif against the Supreme Court's order barring them from holding elected office. The protests forced the government to restore deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and weakened Zardari's grip on power.
The survey indicated that Pakistanis are of the "overall opinion that conditions in the country remain poor, and as president of the country, Zardari is viewed as responsible". Respondents gave Zardari an approval rating of 19 per cent, unchanged since the last poll in October 2008.
The number of people viewing Sharif favorably increased 15 points to 75 per cent, placing him well ahead of the rest of the field. Asked who they felt was the best person to solve the problems of Pakistan, 55 per cent of respondents named Sharif, up from 31 per cent in the last poll by IRI.

Reuters reports that when the survey was taken in March, a large majority of Pakistanis supported the government's peace deal in the Swat Valley, in which the government acquiesced to the Taliban's demands of instituting Islamic law, or sharia, in the region. A smaller majority was also willing to institute Islamic law in some of the country's largest cities in exchange for peace. 

The survey showed 80 percent of people supported the deal to introduce sharia in Swat and neighboring parts of the northwest, and most had expected it to bring peace.
Moreover, 56 percent of Pakistanis said they would back any future Taliban demand for sharia in cities outside the northwest, including Karachi, Quetta, Multan and Lahore.

It is unclear how the survey results would differ if it were taken today, now that the Swat peace deal has collapsed and open war against the Taliban has begun. The government launched an offensive against Taliban positions in the northwest last week, after the militants violated the terms of the Swat peace deal by seizing control of Buner District, 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

The Associated Press reports that the Pakistani Army dropped commandos behind Taliban lines in Swat Valley Tuesday as the government intensified its offensive. 

It is unclear how many civilians have been injured in the fighting, although hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. Pakistan's Daily Times says aid agencies have predicted that as many as 1 million people could flee the combat zone, with 200,000 fleeing their homes in the Swat valley in the last seven days alone.

They call it "the biggest internal displacement in Pakistan since independence," when millions of people were forced to move as the country was partitioned from India

The IRI poll was conducted between March 7 and March 30, 2009, and interviewed 3,500 adult men and women in 216 rural and 134 urban locations across each of the country's four provinces. It has a margin of error of 1.66 percent, according to IRI. 

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