Poll: Pakistanis oppose assisting US terror fight

ISLAMABAD: An overwhelming number of Pakistanis believe their leaders should not cooperate with the US fight against terrorism, according to a poll released Thursday, amid a spate of American missile strikes aimed at Islamist militants that have also killed civilians.

Eighty per cent of people surveyed said ‘no’ when asked if Pakistan should assist the US in the ‘war on terror,’ according to the poll by the International Republican Institute, a US-based nonprofit organization. That response surged 19 per centage points from 61 per cent when Pakistanis were asked the same question in March.

Washington says defeating insurgents in Pakistan is vital for stabilizing neighboring Afghanistan, where violence is on the rise eight years after the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban. The US believes much of the Afghan insurgency is directed by militants who have sought safe haven in Pakistan’s lawless border regions.

The poll said 76 per cent of respondents also opposed Pakistan’s helping the United States with its missile attacks against extremists. Washington rarely acknowledges that it is behind the strikes, carried out by unmanned drones, and Islamabad publicly protests them. But it is believed that the Pakistani government quietly cooperates with the campaign.

More than 70 missile strikes have been carried out in northwestern Pakistan over the last year, killing top militant commanders and fighters — along with civilians. The former leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, died in an Aug. five drone attack.

American officials have said they are considering a strategy of intensified drone attacks combined with the deployment of special operations forces against al-Qaida and Taliban targets on the Pakistani side of the border — part of an alternative to sending more troops to Afghanistan in what is an increasingly unpopular war.

Since Monday, four US missile strikes have killed at least 18 militants in the northwest, according to officials and witnesses.

The drone strikes are unpopular among the public, nationalist and Muslim politicians, and activists but have become so routine that they attract little media attention or public protest in Pakistan these days.

Asked about the possibility of the US launching military incursions into tribal areas, 77 per cent of respondents said they were opposed.

The poll also found only 13 per cent cited terrorism as the most important issue facing Pakistan. Instead, inflation, unemployment and poverty topped the list, with 72 per cent saying their personal economic situation the past year had worsened.

The survey was conducted with 4,900 people in face-to-face interviews between July 15 to Aug. 7. It had a sampling error of plus or minus 1.4 per centage points. The International Republican Institute receives US government funding for its democracy-promotion activities and ties to prominent Republicans, though it’s not affiliated with the party.

The poll was released amid continuing violence in northwest Pakistan on Thursday. A suicide bomber drove his explosives-packed vehicle toward an army convoy but soldiers opened fire, unleashing an explosion that wounded four troops and killed the attacker, said government official Hafeez Khan.

Also, the military said Thursday a suicide bomber blew himself up and wounded two troops as they conducted a raid on an insurgent hide-out in the Swat Valley. Another militant also died in the explosion, it said in a statement.

The northwest has series of recent insurgent attacks. Twenty-two people were killed and more than 150 wounded last Saturday in two suicide car bombings.— AP

Source : www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/