Are we defending the Pakistan of our dreams, or the real thing?

We’re told that we fight to protect Pakistan – but how many of its people want US help, or even share our views about the threat?

  1. Analysis: Pakistan not apt to cooperate“, AP, 25 September 2009 — A confused mish-mash of views and information, although the headline is probably correct.
  2. Anti-U.S. Wave Imperiling Efforts in Pakistan, Officials Say“, Washington Post, 25 September 2009
  3. Pakistan Public Opinion Survey, International Republican Institute (IRI), March 2009

For more about how the people of Pakistan view the USA, see The love of an ally is sweet to behold (21 August 2009).


(1)  Analysis: Pakistan not apt to cooperate“, AP, 25 September 2009 — A confused mish-mash of American agitprop and actual information about Pakistan, although the headline is probably correct.  Excerpt:

Pakistan has been ambivalent about the militants, sometimes trying to enlist them as potential allies in case they take control again in neighboring Afghanistan — a prospect many here believe is getting closer.

(2)  Anti-U.S. Wave Imperiling Efforts in Pakistan, Officials Say“, Washington Post, 25 September 2009 — Excerpt:

A new wave of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has slowed the arrival of hundreds of U.S. civilian and military officials charged with implementing assistance programs, undermined cooperation in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and put American lives at risk, according to officials from both countries.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has rejected as “incomplete” at least 180 U.S. government visa requests. Its own ambassador in Washington has criticized what he called a “blacklist” used by the Pakistani intelligence service to deny visas or to conduct “rigorous, intrusive and obviously crude surveillance” of journalists and nongovernmental aid organizations it dislikes, including the Congress-funded International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute.

Tension has been fueled by widespread media reports in Pakistan of increased U.S. military and intelligence activity — including the supposed arrival of 1,000 Marines and the establishment of “spy” centers in houses rented by the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Islamabad. U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson has publicly labeled the reports false …

“We recognize that Pakistani public opinion on the United States is still surprisingly low, given the tremendous effort by the United States to lead an international coalition in support of Pakistan,” Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said after Thursday’s meetings. “We are a long way from this meeting to realities on the ground.”

… One of the most vocal critics is security analyst and newspaper columnist Shireen Mazari, praised by supporters as a champion of Pakistan’s independence. Patterson’s Aug. 27 letter to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, head of the media group that owns the News newspaper and Geo Television, complained that Mazari’s column and talk shows had made “wildly incorrect” charges that could endanger Americans’ safety. In particular, Patterson objected to Mazari’s “baseless and inaccurate allegation” that Washington-based Creative Associates International, a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development with offices in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, was a “CIA front-company.”

In a telephone interview Sunday, Mazari said: “I definitely have concerns about the Americans’ intentions here, especially that they would like to get access to our nuclear assets. The U.S. mind-set is suspicious of strong Muslim states, and there is a certain imperial arrogance in their behavior that Pakistanis like me don’t like.”

Many Pakistanis see the United States as the latest in a long line of usurpers. “It’s like history repeating itself, from the time the East India Company came out here,” Mazhar Salim, 52, a phone-booth operator in Islamabad, said last weekend. “We are a Muslim country, and the non-Muslim world, the Americans and the Jews and the Indians, are all threatened by our civilization.”

(3) Pakistan Public Opinion Survey, International Republican Institute (IRI), March 2009

What is the most important issue facing Pakistan? (slide 11)

  • Inflation……………..46%
  • Unemployment……22%
  • Terrorism…………..10%
  • Poverty……………..09%
  • Law and order…….04%
  • Electricity/water..03%
  • Corruption………..02%

I support the Army fighting the extremists in NWFP and FATA? (slide 16)

  • Agree…….45%
  • Disagree…52%

I support the US making military incursions in the tribal areas? (slide 17)

  • Agree…….24$
  • Disagree…72%

Do you think that Pakistan should cooperate with the US on its war against terror?

  • Agree…….37% (was 46% in September 2006)
  • Disagree…61% (was 43%)

I support a peace deal with the extremists. (slide 19)

  • Agree…….72%
  • Disagree…22%

Do you support the recent peace deal between the government and the Taliban, so that Sharia Law will be enforced in Swat? (slide 20)

  • Support….80%
  • Oppose:…16%

Do you think that the deal will bring peace to the region? (slide 21)

  • Yes…74%
  • No….20%

In the future, if the Taliban demand Sharia in other parts of Pakistan — like Karachi, Multan, Quetta or Lahore — would you support their demands? (slide 25)

  • Yes…56%
  • No….39%

If you had a choice between a stable and prosperous Pakistan that was ruled by a military dictatorship or a democratic government that led to an unstable and insecure Pakista, which would you choose? (slide 39)

  • Military dictatorship………20%
  • Democratic government…77%

About the IRI

In 1983 Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy to support aspiring democrats worldwide. Four nonprofit, nonpartisan democracy institutes were formed to carry out this work – IRI, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS).  See the IRI site for more information.


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling). 

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Other posts on the FM webstite about Pakistan:

  1. Is Pakistan’s Musharraf like the Shah of Iran? (if so, bad news for us), 8 November 2007
  2. Stratfor says that our war in Pakistan grows hotter; Palin seems OK with that, 12 September 2008
  3. NPR tells us more about America’s newest war, in Pakistan, 14 September 2008
  4. Pakistan warns America about their borders, and their sovereignty, 14 September 2008
  5. Weekend reading about … foreign affairs, 19 October 2008
  6. To good a story to die: eliminate legitimate grievances to eliminate terrorism, 9 December 2008
  7. About the 4GW between India and Pakistan, 6 January 2009
  8. The US tells Pakistan to pick a side. Or else…, 4 May 2009
  9. Why are we fighting in Pakistan, 14 May 2009
  10. The love of an ally is sweet to behold, 21 August 2009

8 thoughts on “Are we defending the Pakistan of our dreams, or the real thing?”

  1. See his doesn’t compute because either

    a) The entire Pakistani nation is evil and/or delusional
    b) American moral exceptionalism is wrong

    And it cant be b

  2. Fabius, thanks for posting this information about Pakistan. I’m especially interested in the Washington Post and the IRI pieces.

    A co-worker of mine is from Pakistan. During July, he travelled back to Pakistan to see old freinds. We talked before he left and he said he was interested in asking folks there questions about Pakistan as a whole. We agreed on certain topics and he talked to folks while he was there. He was mostly in the city of Karachi, in the Province of Sindh. When he got back he said that, surprisingly, most people he’d talked to had preferred the regime of Musharraf to the current one of Zardari, as it was less corrupt, and allowed for more flexible local governance! They viewed the comparsion as “Military Dictator vs. Civilian Dictator”. He also said that 95% of the people he talked to supported the Pakistani military’s war against Taliban militants in the NorthWest Frontier Province, with the 5% remainder being mostly people who had lived in the areas of fighting. Finally he personally expressed an amazing level of cynicism toward current President Asif Ali Zardari, speculating that Zardari was the one who had assassinated his wife Benazir Bhutto for his own personal advancement.

    This is esp. interesting to contrast with the IRI study. For instance, according to the IRI, the support for the Army fighting in NWFP & FATA is really more like 45% not 95% (see slide #16). The statements reported by my freind about military vs. elected government seem much more cynical and pro-Musharraf than what is expressed in the IRI survey (esp. compare with slide #41). His loathing for Zardari, though, is exactly like that shown in the survey. I wonder if my freind’s take was colored by the fact that he spent his sojourn in Karachi, which is in the PPP power base of Sindh, and is itself a base of the left-wing, secularist, pro-immigrant Muttahida Qaumi Movement. And of course by the fact that he’s an American.

    The International Republican Institute’s study is probably good. I would be useful to remember, however, that they have a sleazy, partisan and dangerous history of fomenting coups. (“Did the Bush Administration Allow a Network of Right-Wing Republicans to Foment a Violent Coup in Haiti?“, Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman interview with Max Blumenthal, July 20, 2004), (“GOP organization linked to dirty politics, attempted coups, ‘building democracy’ for US“, Raw Story, by Muriel Kane, June 9, 2006)
    Fabius Maxmius replies: Individuals are IMO a useless source of information about public opinion. People tend to grossly overstate the extent of public support for their own views.

    Your pont about the IRI is cogent. I have added an “about the IRI” section for people unfamilar with it. But its role as an agent of the US government IMO makes these poll findings more credible, as the US has reasons to understate Pak opposition to us.

  3. Here’s another interesting fact about Zardari which I think shows his incredible unpopularity combined with a ham-handed approach to governing: “Pakistan president Asif Zardari bans jokes ridiculing him“,, July 21, 2009, by Isambard Wilkinson. Examples of banned Zardari jokes:

    “Terrorists have kidnapped our beloved Zardari and are demanding $5,000,000 or they will burn him with petrol. Please donate what you can. I have donated five litres.”

    Robber: “Give me all your money!”
    Zardari: “Don’t you know who I am? I am Asif Ali Zardari.”
    Robber: “OK. Give me all my money”

  4. In the spirit of “we all need a laugh”, this list of jokes is doing the rounds in the USA:

    The economy is so bad that:

    * I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.
    * I ordered a burger at McDonalds and the kid behind the counter asked, “Can you afford fries with that?”
    * CEO’s are now playing miniature golf.
    * If the bank returns your check marked “Insufficient Funds,” you call them and ask if they meant you or them.
    * Hot Wheels and Matchbox stocks are trading higher than GM.
    * McDonalds is selling the 1/4 ouncer.
    * Parents in Beverly Hills have fired their nannies and learnt their children’s names.
    * A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.
    * Dick Cheney took his stockbroker hunting.
    * The Mafia is laying off judges.
    * Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

  5. FM: Maybe I’m wrong… but why does it seem like muslim states seem to suffer from inflation?

    Mikyo: LOL! Real funny selection. ‘Specially the one ’bout dick.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I doubt that there is strong evidence that mulim states suffer from inflation more than other states. It’s been a widespread pheonomenon, going back to and beyond Rome.

  6. From FM reply to #2

    But its role as an agent of the US government IMO makes these poll findings more credible, as the US has reasons to understate Pak opposition to us.

    Yes, that really suggests that it is a credible poll. It says nothing like what our political elites have said and assumed about Pakistan lately.

  7. I as a Pakistani, is with Pakistan till i perish away..
    there is nothing which can destroy this land ..
    We all need to unite in order to cater to the needs!!
    pakistan!! u can do it!!
    Proud to be pakistani!!

  8. Foreign Policy: "Is Pakistan's Army As Islamist As We Think?"

    Is Pakistan’s Army As Islamist As We Think?“, C. Christine Fair, Foreign Policy, 15 September 2011 — “New data suggest it may be even more liberal than Pakistani society as a whole.” Opening:

    The preeminent concern among Americans — and increasingly among many Pakistanis too — is that some personnel may support Islamist terrorism in the region and beyond or that perhaps a radical, rogue Islamist column may split off within the Army, endangering Pakistan’s stability and the security of its nuclear weapons. Others fear that radical personnel might even give nuclear devices or technology to terrorists. Equally important is that some U.S. observers equate greater Islamization with deepening anti-Americanism within the Army.

    These apprehensions have been galvanized by the numerous terrorist attacks on military and intelligence institutions and personnel that have involved assistance from within the armed forces. Most recently, the May attack on a Karachi naval facility was likely facilitated by an al Qaeda cell within the Navy itself. Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and other Army brass are worried about the enemy within. In recent months, Pakistani Army personnel have been arrested for ties with Hizb ut-Tahrir, an outlawed extremist organization in Pakistan.

    But these fears may be overblown. Despite the importance of this issue, few data sources have permitted observers to evaluate these claims with any precision.

    Using Army recruitment data from Pakistani analyst Shuja Nawaz, with whom I co-authored a paper in the Journal of Strategic Studies this year describing these data and the changes they evidence, I find no systematic evidence that conservative areas are producing more officers than other areas as late as 2002.

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