WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A recent Gallup Poll of Pakistanis suggests their government has domestic support for a crackdown on Pakistan-based extremists: 60% of Pakistanis interviewed in October said their government should take a tougher approach to rid their country of terrorist activities.
Since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, last month, Pakistan has been under intense international pressure to take serious action against militants inside its borders. At the same time, attacks have continued on Pakistan's own soil, such as the Dec. 5 bombing in Peshawar that killed 29 and wounded 100. Pakistanis have endured hundreds of terrorism-related incidents this year; one of the worst of which -- a suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in the capital Islamabad -- took place shortly before the October Gallup Poll.
Gallup's survey shows substantial support across Pakistan for a tougher stance against terrorist activities, most visibly in the province of Punjab. In North West Frontier (NWFP) and Baluchistan provinces, where al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other militants have been increasingly active, nearly half of residents think the government should take a tougher stance on ridding Pakistan of terrorist activities.
Many view increasing terror-related violence in Pakistan this year as a test of the new government's resolve to eliminate the "epidemic" of terrorism at all costs. Continued bloodshed may also be testing the patience of everyday Pakistanis, nearly half of whom do not think their government is doing enough to fight terrorism. Only 30% think the government is doing enough in this regard.
In August, Pakistan's military launched a massive offensive in the remote northern tribal region of Bajaur, which reportedly has resulted in the deaths and arrests of thousands of militants. The 30% of Pakistanis who in October, with the Bajaur offensive still ongoing, said their government was doing enough to fight terrorism is slightly improved from the 25% who said so in June.
Assessments in this period improved most markedly among Pakistanis living in NWFP, whose capital, Peshawar, was in danger of falling to militants in June. Residents in this province witnessed the government's anti-terror offensives in late June in the nearby Khyber region and then in adjacent Bajaur in August. Pakistanis living in Punjab province, however, became far more dubious in October of their government's efforts to fight terrorism, which could reflect the effects of the Islamabad attacks the month before.
Rising violence and the government's perceived ineffectiveness to quell it may be the impetus behind the erosion in Pakistanis' general feelings of personal security. The percentage of Pakistanis saying they feel safe walking alone at night in the areas where they live has dropped measurably within the past year, from 50% in June 2007 to 41% in October 2008.
Pakistanis' confidence in their local police has also dropped precipitously. Now at 31%, Pakistanis' confidence in their police has dropped from 11 percentage points from 42% in 2007 and is the lowest Gallup has measured to date.
Gallup's recent poll in Pakistan suggests that serious action against militants within Pakistan appears to have many citizens' support. This internal mandate to fight terrorism, rather than external pressure, may do more to secure the buy-in of the Pakistani people and enable the new civilian government to make good on its promises to eradicate terrorists inside Pakistan.
Results are based face-to-face interviews with approximately 840 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in October 2008 in Pakistan. The survey did not include the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The excluded area represents about 5% of the population. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.