Pakistanis Increasingly Reject Terrorism... and the U.S.
by Richard Wike
August 8, 2007As American leaders from George W. Bush to Barack Obama talk tough withPakistani President Pervez Musharraf about getting tough with al Qaeda,Pakistanis may feel torn between sympathy and outrage. On one hand, theyincreasingly reject terrorist tactics and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.But on the other, they continue to express both fear and loathing of theUnited States. Most Pakistanis fear the U.S. could become a military threatto their country, and despite their opposition to terrorism, few support theU.S.-led war on terror.Support for Terror DropsAccording to the recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE),Pakistan remains a safe haven and base of operations for al Qaeda.Nonetheless, public opinion in Pakistan has actually grown considerably lesssupportive of terrorism in recent years. In 2004, 41% of Pakistani Muslimssaid that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians were"often" or "sometimes justified" in order to defend Islam from its enemies,while only 35% felt that such attacks were never justified.1 Today, only 9%say suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified, while 72% say thiskind of violence is never defensible (another 9% say they are "rarely"justified).Similarly, support for Osama bin Laden has waned. In 2005, 51% of Pakistanissaid they had a lot or some confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing inworld affairs. Now, confidence in the al Qaeda leader has fallen to 38% -still disturbingly high, but nonetheless a substantial decline in just twoyears.Over the last few years, Pakistan has suffered a number of deadly terroristattacks, including a series of suicide bombings in July, following agovernment raid on the Red Mosque, a militant Islamist stronghold in thecapital city, Islamabad. More than three-in-four Pakistanis (76%) callterrorism a "very big problem" for the country. Among the 47 countriesincluded in the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes survey, only Bangladeshis (77%)and Moroccans (81%) are more worried about terrorism. And in a 2006 Pewsurvey, 74% of Pakistanis said they were very or somewhat concerned aboutthe rise of Islamic extremism in their country - a higher level of concernthan found in the other predominantly Muslim countries included in thesurvey: Jordan (69%), Egypt (68%), Turkey (46%), and Indonesia (43%).Negative Attitudes toward the U.S.But rising resistance to terrorism has not translated into support for theUnited States or its war on terror. Fewer than one-in-five Pakistanis (15%)have a positive view of the U.S. - only Palestinians (13%) and Turks (9%)are less favorably disposed. Attitudes toward the U.S. have beenconsistently negative for years in Pakistan, although America's unfavorablerating peaked in 2003, shortly after the launch of the Iraq war. And viewsactually grew a bit more positive in 2006, following U.S. aid to victims ofPakistan's devastating October 2005 earthquake. This year, however, opinionsof the U.S. have again grown more negative.