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Pakistan's Troubled State

In May 2011, about one in five Pakistanis said they would like to move permanently to another country if they had the opportunity, rather than continue living in Pakistan. This measure has shown a steady increase since June 2008 when 6% of Pakistanis expressed a desire to move abroad permanently.

Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country?

Pakistanis' views on their country's governance help explain the dramatic increase in people wanting to leave permanently.

  • Institutions - Less than one-third of Pakistanis have confidence in the national government, local police, and honesty of elections, and the ratings for those institutions have declined over the last six years. Pakistan's military is the one institution that has retained the confidence of an overwhelming majority (roughly 80%) of people in the country.
  • Corruption - Eighty-one percent of Pakistanis see their government as rife with corruption. This is an increase of 13 percentage points over the last six years.
  • Leadership - Approximately one in three Pakistanis approve of the leaders in the city or area where they live. Their approval of national leaders is lower - approximately one in five Pakistanis approve of them.

Unquestionably, Pakistan faces many challenges: poverty, illiteracy, terrorist attacks, and a level of gender inequality that has limited women's contributions. For several consecutive years, Pakistan has appeared on the Failed States Index, an annual ranking compiled by the Fund for Peace, a nonprofit research institution, and Foreign Policy magazine. Twelve factors determine whether a country is a "failed state" - including severe economic decline, deterioration of public services, and a country's security apparatus operating as a state within a state.

This report focuses on Gallup's findings in detail, including how attitudes differ with regard to demographics: male or female, educated or uneducated, urban or rural.

Military Retains People's Confidence; Several Other Institutions Do Not

Pakistanis continue to profess more confidence in the military than in any other institution. The military has protected the country through three wars with India and has long dominated Pakistan's national budget and domestic politics. However, it is also an institution many people would hesitate to criticize for fear of reprisal.

It is likely that the reputation of Pakistan's military suffered somewhat after reports that its leaders had no prior knowledge of the May raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed. In the most recent flash Gallup poll conducted May 9-12, 78% of Pakistanis expressed confidence in the military, down from 86% (reflected in the graph on the following page) in a poll conducted mostly before the raid.

Despite this recent drop, the percentage of Pakistanis saying they have confidence in the military remains considerably higher than the percentage saying they have confidence in any other institution. After the military, Pakistanis express the most confidence in the judicial system and financial institutions, at roughly 60% each. The judicial system saw an increase in confidence after the two-year Lawyer's Movement ended with Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, being restored to his post in March 2009.

Other institutions in Pakistan - including the national government, local police, and elections - have the confidence of less than one-third of the population, and those numbers have declined over the last six years. The proportion of people with confidence in the honesty of elections was already low in 2005 - 4 in 10. Now, at roughly 2 in 10, it is half the previous level.

Pakistanis' confidence in some key institutions erodes over time

When it comes to confidence in institutions, men in Pakistan are more likely than women to express their views, either favorable or unfavorable, while a higher percentage of women say they do not know the answers to these questions. For instance, Pakistani men are more likely to say they have confidence in the judicial system (71% of men vs. 40% of women), whereas 19% of women say they do not know (compared with 4% of men). Similar patterns can be seen in men's and women's opinions of various institutions.

Confidence in institutions: How Pakistanis differ by gender

This pattern is not limited to gender; the "don't know" response is also common among rural and less educated Pakistanis. Urban Pakistanis are far more likely than those in rural areas to express their opinions about their government's institutions. The same is true for more educated Pakistanis with a secondary- or some tertiary-level education, compared with those who have only a primary-level education. Higher percentages of both urban Pakistanis and more educated Pakistanis, versus Pakistanis as a whole, say they do not have confidence in the national government and the honesty of elections.

Confidence in institutions: How urban and rural Pakistanis differ

Confidence in institutions: How Pakistanis differ by educational attainment

Eight in 10 Pakistanis See Government as Corrupt - Big Jump From 2005

Pakistanis have become increasingly likely to view the government as corrupt over the last six years and during the past year in particular. Eighty-one percent of Pakistanis now see corruption as widespread in the government, versus 68% in the fall of 2005. This perceived rise in corruption may indirectly result from the large increase in U.S. military aid that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That aid - some $20 billion so far - was to go to the dismantling of "networks of nuclear proliferation" and was contingent on Pakistan's "sustained commitment to significant efforts in combating terrorist groups," according to the U.S. lawmakers who approved it. Instead, Pakistani army and intelligence services officials have used at least some of the money to enrich themselves or to fund militant groups that they regard as strategic in other ways, such as the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Such misappropriation of funds has likely contributed to the U.S. government's recent suspension or cancelation of various forms of military aid to the country.

Growing number of Pakistanis see widespread government corruption

Few Pakistanis Rate Political Leaders Highly; Striking Difference From Military

Pakistanis have doubts about their leaders as well as their institutions. One in three Pakistanis say they approve of the local leaders in the city or area where they live, and one in five say they approve of Pakistan's leadership at a national level. This is especially striking in comparison with the high confidence rating enjoyed by the military (based on the most recent Gallup flash poll, still close to 80%), despite the skepticism some Pakistanis have expressed about the military's not knowing in advance about the bin Laden raid. The public opinion gap between confidence in the military and leadership approval is a reminder of the imbalance of strength and control between Pakistan's military generals and elected politicians.

Pakistanis who have confidence

Small but Growing Number of Pakistanis Aspire to Leave Country Permanently

The severity of Pakistan's challenges is evident in Pakistanis' migration desires.

The rise in the number of Pakistanis aspiring to migrate - from 6% in June 2008 to 19% in May 2011 - coincides with a decline in the percentage of Pakistanis who are "thriving" in terms of how they rate their current lives and their optimism about their future. Gallup asks respondents to rate their current life and their life as they suspect it will be in five years on a 0-to-10 ladder scale based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. It then classifies respondents as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering," based on those ratings. Between spring 2007 and spring 2011, the percentage of Pakistanis who were thriving dipped by 11 percentage points, as more Pakistanis fell into the struggling or suffering categories. In line with the volatility on the ground in the country, the life evaluation numbers have fluctuated during that period.

Life evaluation


In a late May trip to Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that America's policy goal is to "…ensure a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous future for Pakistan."

Even so, some lawmakers in Washington have called to cut off U.S. aid to the country. Based on Gallup's analysis, this approach seems misguided. Instead, it is recommended that the U.S. continue to provide economic aid to Pakistan. It is imperative that the appropriation of these funds be transparent and monitored so that they are spent bolstering those institutions that are in line with the vision Clinton asserted in Islamabad.

Britain may be on the verge of showing the way in this regard; Prime Minister David Cameron recently pledged to nearly triple the aid his country provides to Pakistan's education system, which has some of the lowest primary school enrollment rates in South Asia.

Cameron has acknowledged that it will be a challenge to make sure his country's aid money all reaches Pakistan's schools. But the payoff - reducing illiteracy and poor schooling - is worth the risk, he has said, and will help not just Pakistan but other countries in the region and the world threatened by its instability.

Pakistan's geopolitical importance and the tension that has surrounded its relationship with the U.S. in recent months make it easy for outside observers to overlook the very real problems facing Pakistanis. Those problems are evident in the waning confidence many Pakistanis have in local and national leaders and in their government institutions.

Within Pakistan and in the international community, the focus must shift. This is not to discount the extremism and militancy that exist in the country, or to suggest a strong military is not sometimes needed to hold these dangerous forces in check. But in the long run, the only way Pakistan can move in the direction of becoming more democratic, peaceful, and stable - and making itself inhospitable to extremists - is by shoring up its civilian institutions. As Aqil Shah, a Harvard-based expert on Pakistan has written, civilian institutions, including law enforcement agencies, all "share Washington's interest in rooting out extremism and militancy in Pakistan. . . ."

Survey Methods

Gallup is entirely responsible for the management, design, and control of this study. For the past 70 years, Gallup has been committed to the principle that accurately collecting and disseminating the opinions and aspirations of people around the globe is vital to understanding our world. Gallup's mission is to provide information in an objective, reliable, and scientifically grounded manner. Gallup is not associated with any political orientation, party, or advocacy group and does not accept partisan entities as clients.

Results are based on face-to-face interviews in Pakistan with approximately 10,139 adults, aged 18 and older in 2005, and 15 and older from 2007 through 2011. Surveys in 2005 were conducted in September; in 2007, surveys were conducted in June; surveys in 2008 were conducted May 14-June 26, Oct. 11-29, and Dec. 18-30; in 2009, surveys were conducted May 1-17, May 1-June 30, and Nov. 14-Dec. 7; in 2010, surveys were conducted May 5-25- and in 2011, surveys were conducted from April 25-May 14. The regions of FATA and AJK were excluded from the polling from June 2007 to May 2009. The areas of FATA and FANA were excluded from polling from May 2009 through May 2011. The excluded regions represent less than 5% of the population. In Pakistan, gender-matched sampling was used during the final stage of selection.

For results based on the total sample of adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4.2 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.

The questionnaire was translated into Urdu. The translation process starts with an English version. A translator who is proficient in the English and Urdu languages translates the survey into the target language. A second translator reviews the language version against the original version and recommends refinements.

Abu Dhabi Gallup Center

The Abu Dhabi Gallup Center is a Gallup research hub based in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is the product of a partnership between Gallup, the world's leading public opinion research firm, and the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.

Building on Gallup's seminal work in the field of Muslim studies, the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center (ADGC) offers unmatched research on the attitudes and aspirations of Muslims around the word. In addition to its worldwide scope, the ADGC focuses on the specific priorities of its regional base and presents innovative analysis and insights on the most important challenges facing the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

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