Pakistanis want democracy; fear US is hostile toward Islam
Washington, Jan 07: A majority of Pakistanis want a “moderate and democratic Islamic” state but is wary of the US as they perceive that Washington is “hostile” toward Islam, according to a survey.
They have little sympathy for Islamist military groups and rejects “Talibanization” of the country and supports recent government efforts to reform the madrassah system, said the survey conducted by worldpublicopinion.org with assistance from the US Institute of Peace.
“While Pakistan is racked by conflict between leaders and groups vying for power, this poll indicates that most Pakistanis largely agree on a moderate and democratic Islamic state,” Steven Kull of worldpublicopinion.org said in a statement recently.
“The good news is that majority of Pakistanis view most militant groups in Pakistan as a threat. The bad news is that many Pakistanis view the US with great suspicion,” Christine Fair of the Rand Corporation, formerly at the US Institute of Peace, remarked.
There is a growing Pakistani perception that the United States is hostile to their desire for a more Islamic society. Indeed, 86 per cent now say it is definitely (70%) or probably (16%) a US goal to “weaken and divide the Islamic world.”
The survey finds strong public support for a wider role for Islam.
Asked to gauge the importance of living “in a country that is governed according to Islamic principles (Sharia)” on a 10-point scale, 61 per cent give an answer of 10 (meaning absolutely important).
And on the importance of living “in a country that is governed by representatives elected by the people”, the mean response is 8.4, which indicates an overwhelming support for the suggestion.
But, there is little support among Pakistanis for a shift to extreme religious conservatism. Only a small minority (15%) even among those who want a greater role for Sharia say they want to see more “Talibanization of daily life”.
Eighty-one per cent say it is important for Pakistan to protect religious minorities which have been frequent targets of militant violence and three quarters (75-78 per cent) say that attacks on specific religious minorities (Ahmadiyya and Shia) are never justified.
The survey identified substantial support for reforming the religious schools known as madrassahs. About two-thirds (64 per cent) support a recent government plan to regulate the madrassahs, requiring them to register with the government and to spend more time on subjects like math and science.
Only 17 per cent are opposed to such reform efforts. Interestingly, those who want a larger role for Sharia are more likely than others to strongly favour these reforms.
There is also little sympathy for Islamist militant groups operating in Pakistan. Three in five (60-62 per cent) view the activities of al Qaeda, local Taliban, and Pakistani Islamist militant groups as threats to Pakistans vital interests.
The survey has shown that a large majority wants the special status of the region along the afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to be phased out and for the FATA to be integrated into Pakistan’s legal structure.
Seventy-two per cent think the frontier crimes regulation should be changed so that people in FATA “have the same rights and responsibilities as all other Pakistanis.” Only 8 per cent think it should be left unchanged.
The survey was conducted from Sept 12-18, just before President Pervez Musharraf declared a six-week state of Emergency.