A majority of Pakistanis see the United States as a greater threat to their country than traditional arch-rival India or the dreaded Taliban, a new opinion poll has revealed.
According to Gallup Pakistan’s poll, 59% of more than 2,700 people surveyed across the country consider the US a threat. “Eighteen percent believe India is the threat while 11% say the Taliban are a threat,” said Gallup Pakistan chairman Ijaz Shafi Gillani.
He said the survey findings show that some of the most vocal anti-Taliban groups were equally opposed to the US. Some Pakistanis believe that if the US is committed to eradicating militancy, it should try to solve the Kashmir issue to help Islamabad move its troops from the eastern border with India to fight the Taliban in the northwest.
The poll group said Pakistanis were suspicious that Washington was working to control Islamabad’s strategic assets. “Earlier, anti-Americanism was confined to supporters of right-wing groups. But over the years, young, educated Pakistanis, left activists, people you’d normally expect to be pro-American modernists have turned against America,” said columnist Sohail Qalandar.
The poll revealed that a majority of Pakistanis support the offensive against the Taliban in their stronghold of south Waziristan, but more people blame the US for the violence than the militia itself, which experts say poses an existential threat to Pakistan.
The near-daily destabilizing attacks have convinced many that the offensive is necessary. “Over 50% people support the offensive. There is cautious support in Pakistani public opinion for the military action,” the research group said. Thirteen percent opposed the military action while 36% said they were unsure.
While a majority supported the action, only 25% respondents said the Taliban were responsible for the offensive; 35% blamed the US while 31% pointed to the government. Thirty-six percent people thought the offensive would improve security while an almost equal section (37%) believed it would lead to a deterioration, the poll found.
The research group said public opinion was still divided on whether or not Islamabad was fighting America’s war, but in what could be a major relief to the increasingly unpopular federal government, many more consider it Pakistan’s own war compared to a year ago.
“The sharpest change from previous surveys is on the question of whose war it is,” said Gillani.
In the latest survey, 37% people considered it Pakistan’s war while 39% saw it as America’s war. Last year, only 23% of those questioned considered military action in the northwest to be Pakistan’s war.
Pakistan’s army launched an offensive against the Taliban on the Afghan border on October 17 after a string of bomb attacks and raids left around 300 people dead. Pakistan army claims that the militants are being squeezed out of their strongholds.
The militants have retaliated by escalating bomb attacks. The northwest city of Peshawar has borne the brunt, with five deadly attacks last week. — Times of India