IRI Poll: Nawaz on Top, Musharraf on Bottom; Pakistanis Want Judges and Jobs Back; PPP’s Leaderless Drift

Another poll of Pakistanis has been released. The irony is that Pakistani voices are being increasingly heard, but it stops right there.  There’s no actualization.

I forsee not only rising public anger, but also a very ugly end-product.  Those responsible–and there are many–will wash their hands, describing it all as inevitable.

The International Republican Institute published the findings of its latest survey, conducted in the first two weeks of June.

Links: Press Release; IRI Pakistan Index; Graphs and Charts


  • Nawaz Sharif remains Pakistan’s most popular politician.  He has an 82% approval rating.
  • Next five most popular public figures are, respectively: A.Q. Khan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, Shahbaz Sharif, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.  The first four are tied to Pakistan’s renewed nationalism.  Gilani is seen as a nice, pious fellow.  Bilawal carries the legacy of his slain mother.  There are no material expectations of him (and resultant disappointment) yet.  He’s just a kid.
  • Surprisingly, Aitzaz Ahsan’s negatives are high (40%).  I would tie this to his contentious relationship with the People’s Party.
  • Asif Zardari’s positives and negatives are not as high as Aitzaz’s.  There’s a much larger segment of people that are undecided about Zardari.  This is likely a product of a rollover of his status as Benazir’s widower as well as his swift and confusing political dancing.  However, as head of Pakistan’s largest party, Zardari’s positives are relatively low — especially when compared to Nawaz Sharif.  In the coming months, I expect the undecided camp to choose sides.  And I think today, a month after this poll was conducted, many Pakistanis have already.
  • Pervez Musharraf is Pakistan’s most disliked public figure — even more than Baitullah Mehsud, a prolific terrorist.  In fact, opposition to Musharraf has increased since November.  Now, approximately 85% of Pakistanis want him to resign.
  • Eight-six percent of Pakistanis see the country as going in the wrong direction.  Over 70% see themselves as worse off economically and less secure than before.
  • Fifty one percent deem the government’s performance negatively.  This will increase through the summer.  Still, 52% see the new government bringing positive change to the country.
  • Around 58% want the PPP-PML(N) governing coalition to stay together.  And most PPP voters are against a coalition with the PML(Q).
  • Seventy-one percent see inflation as the greatest problem facing Pakistan today.  Terrorism is at the bottom (though, in contrast to the January poll, there is no response for terrorism, but “Al Qaeda” and “suicide bombing.”)
  • Eighy-three percent want the deposed judges restored.  It’s very important for 69% of Pakistanis.
  • A strong majority supports talks with militants, but the public remains conflicted about the use of force and the challenge of terrorism.
  • Support for the U.S.-led war on terror increase from 9 to 15%.  Over 70% still oppose Pakistan’s participation.
  • Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani’s negative ratings have declined considerably to 11% (down from the 50s).  His approval rating is higher, now in the 30s.  That means the public is still seeking to find out who Kayani is.  He has mitigated negative sentiments toward him (perhaps inherited from Musharraf) and has an opportunity to secure public goodwill toward him.
  • A sizable plurality (38%) sees Nawaz Sharif as the person most fit to lead Pakistan.  He is slightly above his September 2007 high of 36%.  It seem as if there’s strong resistance near the 40% level — probably due to  the sizable PPP vote bank.  Strangely, Asif Zardari doesn’t appear to be on the list.  Either he was not included in the survey or few chose him.  If the latter is true, then PPP voters are divided.  The party faces a leadership void.  Their favor is split amongst four persons: a teenager (Bilawal), a deceased person (Benazir Bhutto), an outcasted party leader (Amin Fahim), and a fairly impotent prime minister (Yousuf Raza Gilani).
  • If fresh elections are held, the PML-N has the potential to win a majority in Punjab by itself and a plurality in NWFP.  The PPP is in a similar position in, respectively, Sindh and Balochistan.  But the PML-N, if it places the right candidates in the right seats, can come out well in all four provinces.  This is tied to the downfall of the PML-Q, the PPP’s self-destruction, and most importantly, the PML-N’s position on the deposed judges (80% have a higher opinion of the party because of its position).  In contrast, the PPP will lose out from not restoring the judges — at least nationally (over 70% say they will view the PPP more negatively).


  • Pervez Musharraf is not rehabitable in terms of Pakistani public opinion.  He is indelibly tied to Pakistan’s comprehensive decline in the past few years (e.g. sovereignty, social equity, and law and order).  He can stay in power artificially — especially when half of the governing coalition is creeping on the down low with him.
  • The PPP has fragmented since the murder of Benazir Bhutto.  Yousuf Raza Gilani is seen positively, but PPP voters are split on who’s their best leader — Zardari, Bilawal, Gilani, or even Benazir.
  • In contrast, the PML-N has benefited from clarity on key issues and a consolidated party leadership.
  • Socio-economic and rule of law issues are not exclusive in the eyes of the public.  Pakistanis, in general, want both the deposed judges restored and economic relief.
  • Pakistanis remain highly conflicted about the war on terror.  They do not support terrorism, nor do they support the U.S.-led war on terror.  They favor peace talks with militants.  Terrorism hasn’t produced a hatred of terrorists, rather the wave of violence is blamed on Musharraf and the United States.  The continued presence of Musharraf and absence of real Afghan rapproachment provide a convenient cover for terrorists in Pakistan.
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American Perceptions of Pakistan

Polls concerning U.S.-Pakistan relations tend to focus on how Pakistanis view the United States.  A new Gallup survey provides a look at the flip side.  How do Americans view Pakistan?

Pakistan is one of the most unfavorably viewed countries.  Seventy two percent of Americans polled have negative views on Pakistan.  It trails Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, but finds itself ahead of Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, North Korea, and Iran.  Republicans are almost twice more likely than Democrats to view Pakistan positively.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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