Pakistan: Hostile and Disliked

The Pew research organization (see http://www.pewglobal.org/2012/06/27/pakistani-public-opinion-ever-more-critical-of-u-s/?src=prc-newsletter, from which these data are taken), conducted public opinion polls in 20 countries, including Pakistan, in the spring of 2012. Using a Pakistani polling company, more than a thousand Pakistanis across the country were interviewed by Pakistanis. The results are startling.

Pakistani views of the U.S. are overwhelmingly negative. Some 74 percent see the U.S. as an enemy, not as a partner, while 80 percent hold unfavorable views of the U.S. Some 90 percent see China as a partner.

Only Jordanians have a more unfavorable view of the U.S. – 86 percent hold those views. (Remember that a majority of Jordanians are Palestinians.) To put this in perspective, only 34 percent of Russians hold such unfavorable views, 31 percent of the French, and only 22 percent of the Italians. The country in Europe most hostile to the U.S. is Greece with 61 percent of its people seeing the U.S. as unfavorable.

Pakistanis’ negative views of the U.S. are closely matched by their view of India—72 percent see India unfavorably.

But no one seems to like the Pakistanis either. 59 percent of Indians and Japanese see Pakistan unfavorably. Only slightly smaller majorities in Jordan, Egypt, China and Tunisia hold the same views.

In Pakistan itself, Pakistanis are angry. Roughly 9 in 10 see the economic situation of their country as bad while more than 6 in 10 see it as very bad. 9 in 10 Pakistanis identify crime and the lack of jobs as their biggest problems and only slightly fewer see terrorism as a very big problem. They are down on their national leaders as well. The president, Asif Ali Zardari has support from only 14 percent of his people.

But extremist groups are not seen as the solution to the country’s problems. 55 percent see al Qaeda unfavorably; 66 percent, the Taliban of Afghanistan; 52 percent, Tehrik-i-Taliban, the Pakistani version. Especially interesting is the fact that the more religious the Pakistani – measured by those praying five times per day – the less favorable the view towards extremist groups.

Menacingly, only 32 percent support the Pakistani army fighting extremist groups while overwhelming majorities reject the U.S. military’s doing so, especially with drones, which are despised.

This all adds up to a country in grave distress – politically and economically. Pakistanis see themselves surrounded by enemies – India and the U.S. They have no faith in their  president or political system and the most admired institution remains the military. Nuclear capable Pakistan is likely to continue to disintegrate with unknowable consequences. But they are unlikely to be good.