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Guest Voice

A New Lens on Pakistan

By Steven Kull

A recent poll of the Pakistani public reveals the distortions in the lens through which many Americans view the events in the Muslim world. This lens is based on a narrative of conflict: on one side there are those who are potential U.S. allies—western oriented, relatively secular, moderate; on the other side are those steeped in traditional Islam who hate and fear the “West”, with sympathies for al Qaeda. As we see Pakistan engulfed in the flames of conflict many try to identify who is who, who is on our “team.” Some assume it must be President Musharraf and his supporters.

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 907 urban Pakistanis reveals that this image does not fit Pakistan. As if to create a paradox for the American mind, a large majority of Pakistanis wants to see a greater role for Islam and Shari’a (Islamic law) in Pakistani society – but at the same time want more democracy, favoring liberalizing reforms and opposing al-Qaeda.

The poll, taken before the imposition of emergency rule, asked respondents to gauge the importance of living “in a country that is governed according to Islamic principles” on a 10-point scale. Sixty-one percent gave an answer of 10 (meaning “absolutely important”). The mean response was 9.0. Sixty percent want Shari’a (Islamic law) to play a larger role, “as compared to current Pakistan law.”

At the same time, a large majority of Pakistanis want Pakistan to be more democratic. Asked to use the 10-point scale to measure the importance of living “in a country that is governed by representatives elected by the people,” the mean response was 8.4. They say it is equally important to live in a country where “the decisions of the courts are independent from influence by political and military authorities.”

In this Islamic state there is little support for extreme religious conservatism. Only a small minority (15%) says they want to see more “Talibanization of daily life.” Three in five view the activities of al-Qaeda as a threat to Pakistan’s vital interests. Perhaps most significant, two-thirds support a recent government plan to reform the madrassas, including requiring them to spend more time on subjects like math and science.

Interestingly, among the 60 percent who support a larger role for Shari’a, support for democracy and reforms of the madrassas are higher than average.

And don’t think Musharraf supporters offer a significantly different picture. While their support for democracy is slightly higher and their support for a greater role for Islam slightly lower, a large majority of Musharraf supporters are fully in line with mainstream Pakistani society.

So is the Pakistani public divided about the U.S.? Apparently not. Overall about two-thirds (64%) do not trust the United States “to act responsibly in the world.” Only 27 percent feel that the cooperation between Pakistan and the United States on security and military matters has benefited Pakistan. Most striking, 72 percent believe the U.S. military presence in Asia is a critical threat to Pakistan.

But what about Musharraf supporters—don’t they at least appreciate the billions the U.S. has sent to help prop him up? No, not according to this poll. Musharraf supporters are no less hostile and suspicious toward the U.S.

But this picture is not as grim as it may seem. Once we give up the idea that somewhere in the Pakistani public there is a constituency with which we can ally ourselves, it also becomes clear that the mainstream of Pakistani society is relatively moderate and shares many of our values about democracy as well as our concerns about militant Islam. This applies to supporters of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto as well as supporters of Musharraf.

While Pakistani society is presently racked by intense political conflict, it is not really about the themes that preoccupy the United States; it is primarily a conflict about power. Militant Islamic groups, such as al-Qaeda, do play a destabilizing role but they are not significant political players

For the U.S. to form a positive relationship with the Pakistani public, though, will require countering some widely held perceptions. A large and growing majority of Pakistanis appear to perceive the United States as hostile to their desire for a more Islamic society. Indeed, 86 percent believe that it is a U.S. goal to “weaken and divide the Islamic world”-- up 13 points from February.

This suspicion is likely to persist as long as the United States is seen as approaching Pakistan and other Muslim countries by trying to find a secular, western-oriented ally as a bulwark against the Islamist tendencies of the masses. Once the United States is perceived as genuinely ready to enter into a constructive and respectful relationship with the mainstream of the Pakistani people, their suspicion may abate and they may come to be more supportive of cooperation on shared concerns.


Steven Kull is Director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, a project of the Program on International Policy Attitudes of the University of Maryland.

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Dr Anwar Al Haque:
Are you for real or a plant? In all the inventions of Muslims or Islamic inventions/discoveries where does the number of people with AIDS in India as compared to Pakistan come in? And do think about the true origin of the decimal system :).

Naveed Sadiq Khan:
Someone asked me, What is an oxymoron and i replied: A Pakistani Hindu :).
Islamic bomb was a term coined by Z A Bhutto.
As to peace loving nature of Pakistan, please read yesterdays headline in NY Times about ISI losing control over its Jihadi assets. Talk about blowback.

Mohammed Malleck:
Your reply to Arvind still doesnt invalidate his question, you have merely sidestepped it :).

Cheers

Dr. Anwar Ul Haque:

You guys do not understand Islam at all, sorry to say.
If you look yourself what you have gotten from Islam? Let me tell you (No exaggeration at all)
1) The watch you are wearing is an invention of Muslims in the time of Mamoon Rashid 1000 years back.
2) The University you go to is Muslim invention
3) The number 0-9, algebra, geometry etc. etc. are all Muslim
4) the Books you are reading are all Muslims as Muslims made paper very cheap and printing very easy (Paper was invented by Chineese but was very expensive)
5) The hospital and all medical system is all Islamic inlcduing Medicine, Surgery, Cat gut suture, anesthesia etc.
6) The bookstores and chemist stores are all Muslim
7) Entire labroatory sciences are Muslims and all chemsitry is Muslim
8) All optics and all astronomy is Muslim
9) Sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitiric acid, wihtout which plastic could not be made is Islamic
10) All modern maps are Muslims
All of these inventions were brought about by Quranic infleunce. This is well recognized by many Non Muslim scholars incuding Philips Haite and Geroge Steaton.
Islam is all peace and it was the religion of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad. (peace be upon them).
You must have a lower I.Q. than Down syndrome patient to believe that 9/11 was done by Muslims. Charlie Sheen has same opinon. Islam absolutley prohibits killing of innocent human beings, animals and even plants. Animals can be sacrificed only for eating and plants can be cut for genuine reasons e.g. building or replacing with better plants. There are strict rules for war and love in Islam.
While India can be pround of over 6 million AIDS patients, Paksitan has less than 3000 total AIDS patiens and many of these acquired from foreign travels. The concepts of human rights, democracy etc are not Western but Islamic which West had acquired from Muslims. It was Islam which gave birth to renissance and industrial revolution in Europe. As Quran is 100% protected final divine book of the God, frustration of Satanic forces can be seen. They were not able to kill Jesus (PBUH). They got deceived and they are not able to wipe out words of God despite all their hard wrok. Israel is the biggest terrroist in the world. Every day it kills many innocent civilians in Palestine. The attack on Afghnistan was for restoration of heroin drug smuggling. 9/11 was created by Terrorist Sharon and his disciples. In Taliban times heroin production was Zero says Noam Chomsky (A Jew scholar) and now it is over 70%. Who is benefitting from this dug smuggling? Drug mafia controlled by Zionists and who is dying? Poor Christian youth. Zionists do not represent West and they should keep their dirty mouth shut. They have made West their slave and they see only challenge from Islam and Muslims i.e the Islam of Jesus and Moses preserved in Quran. After 8 days thosuands of Muslims will have thanks giving fast for victory of Moses over Pharoah On 10th Muharram of Islamic calendar). In Islam there is no discrimination based on time and place.

The ghastly truth:

Pakistan is just another insane, toxic ghastly muslim sewer. Its very foundational impulse is highly questionable: Islamic separitism. And the differences between it and India are truly shocking and glaring.

It is not India's or the US's fault that Pakistan is a ghastly hellhole, no more than it is Israel's or the US's fault that the Gaza strip is a fetid sewer. Islam, to borrow from Cold War rhetoric, is the greatest assault against the human spirit in history. Whereever it lands, the result is barbarity, stupidity, cruelty, poverty, and brutality.

Islam is based on lies: Whenever muslims are confronted with the obvious lies of their world view - based usually on the proximity of civilization - their explanatory arguments are unconvicing.

Just why is it that every country or place wherein Islam is the dominant idea is a rotting, diseased basketcase?

The ghastly truth:

Pakistan is just another insane, toxic ghastly muslim sewer. Its very foundational impulse is highly questionable: Islamic separitism. And the differences between it and India are truly shocking and glaring.

It is not India's or the US's fault that Pakistan is a ghastly hellhole, no more than it is Israel's or the US's fault that the Gaza strip is a fetid sewer. Islam, to borrow from Cold War rhetoric, is the greatest assault against the human spirit in history. Whereever it lands, the result is barbarity, stupidity, cruelty, poverty, and brutality.

Islam is based on lies: Whenever muslims are confronted with the obvious lies of their world view - based usually on the proximity of civilization - their explanatory arguments are unconvicing.

Just why is it that every country or place wherein Islam is the dominant idea is a rotting, diseased basketcase?

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Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada:

CHARLIEM,

You ask an honest question, and I shall provide an honest answer even if that leaves me vulnerable to a lot of opprobrium from my fellow-Muslims.

You rightly say that Muslim countries' people always want their Governments to follow Shari'a. You are getting the FACTS almost right -- they want their GOVERNMENTS to follow Shari'a because, like the fabled story of Haroon-Al-Rachid, which everybody, Westerner and Easterner has read, a SHARI'A GOVERNMENT can legitimately concentrate enormous power in the Ruler (hence despotic and anti-democratic), but that power is ALWAYS benevolent, and law and order is maintained, and nobody gets extremely poor or extremely rich. There is an enormous amount of 'social and spiritual capital' which cutting-edge research in economics, sociology and history evidence being highly correlated with sustainable growth and human welfare, over long cycles. It is true that the industrial revolution propelled the West into a quantum jump ahead of not only Muslim countries but all those cultures and societies that embrace economic systems whose main trait is capitalism and individualist profit- and pleasure and happiness-driven. The lead that Western, 'democratic' societies -- but not all 'Western' (i.e. hedonist, consumer-oriented) societies are necessarily democratic (e.g. Ceaucescu's Romania) --- had taken has now been bridged and the more recent IT-revolution has created wealth that excerbates the gap between the haves and have-nots and therefore uncovers the poverty of the Western hedonistic ideology, especially as contrasted with the communitarian, 'social-and-spiritual-capital'-driven societies and economies.

Now, coming back to the Muslim societies their GOVERNMENTS to follow Shari'a, they are both in a transition and in some form of ambivalence. Most of the members of these societies find the harsher aspects of Shari'a unacceptably cruel -- like amputation, stoning, lashing and other corporal punishment. But then, ACTUAL Shari'a, combined with enlightened interpretations of the practice and teachings of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), is far more humane than literal, narrow-minded reading of the Shari'a. Who decides? In actual practice, there is the Shura, Coucil of Religious Advisers, but the ubiquitous corruption of governance pratices make the Council liable to manipulation by the Ruler especially when he has concentrated enormous power in his own person.

The point is, even with the corruption of the Shari'a ideology, most Muslims who have experienced only their own societies' workings and learn about the rest of the world only from waht they see on TV and what they directly experience when outside powers meddle in their affairs, know that Western governance is also highly corrupt, and corruption for corruption, they still prefer their system. But, at the PERSONAL LAW level, they would like a more mundane Shari'a, with a good dose of democracy, which, far from being incompatible with Islam, is actually very much in the spirit of Islam, since the other institution that decides on how to interpret the practices and teachings of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) in a modern environment, apart from the Shura already mentioned, is ijtihaad -- consensus. Can you define a more democratic form of governance than consensus. Yes, you will ask how do you reach consensus. That is a topic for psephologists (theory and practice of optimal voting processes or theory of optimal aggregation of individual preferences into social choice functions), a discipline which great Muslim scholars like Al Ghazzali pioneered long before Condorcet, Kenneth Arrow, Amartya Sen, and Stephen started thir modern cutting-edge researches in psephology.

Well, I guess that has been heavy ( or heady!)enough for today.

Jean Wall:

We are delusional and visionary ,cruel and self-sacrificing, we are hot heads and peacenicks, saints and serial killers ,petty and profound,quixotic and cynical....and ultimately, we are all just passing through . Go in peace.

Ipsy1:

Why isnt there a reference to the opinions of muslims in India towards democracy and sharia and America? India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been cut from the same civilisational fabric. There are as many - or nearly as many - muslims in India as there are in in Pakistan. Surely one of the anomalies lies in the fact that while Bush is disliked, there does not seem to be a muslim challenge to the trends of globalization in India or aversion to the US.

charlieM:

Hmm,

Muslim countries' peoples always seem to want governments that want to follow Shari'a. But the governments that want to impose Shari'a tend to be fundamental and don't really give a crap about democracy.

How do they resolve that one?

Naveed Sadiq Khan:

Well, it is interesting butno one can draw a perfect analysis about the political situation in Pakistan sitting out side. Let me tell you in a simple way how the Pakistanis thinks & reasons behind it.
1- Majority of the people love religion values. Because they believe there is Day of Judgment & these values will help them to start end less life in a successful manner.

2- Majority of the people wants Islamic Laws. Because they feel secure, they believe, this is product of Allah, Who created them. Moreover they have seen the positive results of these Laws in Afghanistan under the regime of Taliban. One can disputes the policies of Taliban but no one can deny the fact that they brought peace & security in Afghanistan by implementing Islamic Laws. Take the example of Iran & Saudi Arabia, where crime ratio very low as compare to other World, they believe this is due to Islamic Laws.

3- No one is against America, they condemn the policies of Bush administration, it does not indicate they are against America. Lot of Americans disagree with policies of President Bush, do you think they are against their country?

4- Majority of the Pakistanis believe Bush & Dick Cheney are fundamentalists & playing in the hands of Israel.

5- Majority of the population respect all religions, compare religious ethnic violence with largest democracy of the World “India”.

6- Majority of the people hate, when western media use words like “Moderate” “Civil” “Fundamentalist” etc alongwith Islam. They believe Islam is Islam. Did western media use these words about Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Ehud Olmert or Aril Sharon?

7- Majority of Pakistanis disagree with the definition of “Terrorism”. Fight to liberate owns land is terrorism? If killing of innocent civilians, children, women, old aged men are concern and then check the record. Who is killing Iraqis, Palestinians, Chechens, and Kashmiries & Afghanis? Who used dirty, daisy cutter bombs on civilians?

8- Pakistanis love Independent Judiciary, Democracy & civil rights, they have a right to ask the civilizes World, who is helping out all dictators in Islamic World? For What?

9- Majority of the populations thinks that Madrassas are the blessing. Because State have not any facility to accommodate orphans innocent children. Till today nobody has given any prove of Madrassas involvement in terrorist activity.

10- Majority of Pakistanis are peace loving. They wish peace for all irrespective of race, religion, area, color of skin or citizenship but they have a right to defend themselves from any security threats. If they develop bomb to save themselves, Western Media gives the name “Islamic Bomb”. Did they ever call American bomb as Christian bomb or Israeli bomb as Jaws bomb.

List is very long but I think this is not a time to blame each other. We must understand that all of us are citizens of the global irrespective of our skin color, religion, language, cast or region we are living. “Justice to all” is a basis principle of PEACE. One can find this principle in all religions. We all must learn to live together with tolerance, forbearance & patience; otherwise we will make this World hell to live. We must learn to solve our disputes on table with sincere & open negotiations.

Naveed Sadiq Khan
Lahore-Pakistan

Miss:

Re: Bengalee Baboo

The crux of the problem is not the prevelance of experts, such as the ones writing this opinion. Rather it is the lack of understanding and becoming emotionally incited at anything and everyhting any Westener says. I believe the author in this article is advocating adapting western perceptions in line with what the locals think. It is this pre-conceived notion on part of some Muslims that everything is a conspiracy, and the whole world is workign against them that is really the crux of the problem. It is the lack of logic and rationality displayed by some which is the actual problem.

allahbuxrathore:

this poll is right thinking of pakistan but not whole truth.many variations in pakistani society if u will look in sindh and balochistan there is no religious peoples but in punjab and nwfp religious feeling are boiling.many al-qaida persons are in both above provinces.i think it poll was conducted in punjab or nwfp.it not reflect whole country.

Bangalee Babu:

Re: Re: Steven Kull is Director of WorldPublicOpinion.org,

Here's the crux of the problem. Too many so called experts like this writer who think they understand a religion that has existed for centuries and who think polls are the way to guage public opinion.

unquote:

Wanted to add you don't need polls to guage the opinion of a people who have lived in a region and followed a religion for centuries. Their general way of life should tell you a lot about their likes and dislikes.

And how do you poll a people when thousands of potential respondents are living in mountain regions beyond your reach.

Or are you only interested in what the TV viewing, English speaking, western aware person has to say?

Re: 907 urban Pakistanis

Can the writer define "urban". What qualities classified the respondents as being urban?

Bangalee Babu:

Re: Steven Kull is Director of WorldPublicOpinion.org,

Here's the crux of the problem. Too many so called experts like this writer who think they understand a religion that has existed for centuries and who think polls are the way to guage public opinion.

When America used jihadists to kill innocent Russians then it was acceptable jihad.

When millions of Indo Chinese were "napalmed" to death by America and her allies it was to stop the reds taking over.

Hypocrites want us to forget history.

History unfortunately has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

BTW can you define "moderate" Islam?

Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada:

AARON,

I replied to you under the comment by Saul Singer.

ARVIND,

If neither you nor Narendra Modi could not get me in Gujrat, there is no chance whatsoever of your murdering me here in Canada while you are in the US. Better see a shrink to rid you of your murderous instincts.

Arvind:

It is amazing to see Muslims, even living in Western countries slam their own country/governments while saying nothing (or even praising) Islamic terrorirsts like bin Laden, 9/11 hijackers...

JJ:

Every moderate muslim I have met ,including here in the US, blames the US but is unwilling to blame Islamic militants. This sense of "muslim brotherhood" overpowers the willingness to curb the militants. Unfortunately, the consequences of inaction impact not just Pakistan but the region and the world.

Aaron:

Mohamed, thanks for educated opinions. While blaming everything on the US, you conveniently release the "Umma" from any responsibility. If 9/11 had not happened, no matter how much Bush wanted to attack Iraq, it would never have been backed by the majority. If the Middle East (other than Israel) shared our values of individual freedom, non-lethal capitalist competition, and constitutional democracy, obviously we would not need to be there in force to ensure the survival of Western civilization. However, we live in the "House of War," and until that fact changes (maybe you should work on that problem, instead of safely venting here) we will from now on act accordingly. If you want to help, convince your brothers in name to abandon Jihad and enter the modern age of freedom, prosperity, and democracy, remove the hate-mongering and mysogeny from the Koran and Hadith, end the pathetic incitement in the education system, and separate Islam and politics permanently. I'm glad you enjoy our freedom, but since you are obviously powerless to address the real problem, don't blame us if we "irresoponsibly" defend ourselves from hate-indoctrinated barbarians hell-bent on our destruction.

Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada:

The author writes : 'So is the Pakistani public divided about the U.S.? Apparently not. Overall about two-thirds (64%) do not trust the United States “to act responsibly in the world.”'

But, of course! If the US acts irresponsibly in the world, how do you expect the REAL FREE WORLD (not the self-styled bullies called the West) to react to it? With extreme loathing and distrust, waht else.

The US were acting irresponsibly during the exact same period in as disparate places in the world as the dictators they supported indicate with Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines and the Shah of Iran and Jonas Savimbi of Angola and Augusto Pinochet in the 1970's; they used Muslims as cannon fodder to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980's and first half of the 19990's, all the while they were pussyfooting about apartheid South Africa treating the ANC as a terrorist organisation, with Cheney even opposing the release of Nelson Mandela by his archfoe, the recently-disgraced (post-Nobel prize award)then-President Frederik De Klerk.

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