ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Nearly nine out of 10 Pakistanis feel their country is headed in the wrong direction, a poll carried out by a US-based research group has revealed, underscoring the deep voter discontent here.
The increasing pessimism about Pakistan’s political and economic future has badly dented support for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, the nonprofit International Republican Institute (IRI) said.
“The Pakistan People’s Party-led government is bearing the brunt of this discontent,” IRI said in the poll results, released this week.
Zardari, the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto who took power in September after former military ruler Pervez Musharraf resigned, earned only a 19 percent approval rating, while 63 percent disapproved of his work.
When asked if Pakistan was heading in the right or wrong direction, 88 percent said the country was on the wrong track, while only 11 percent said it was on the right path, the October 15-30 poll showed.
About 59 percent of respondents said they felt their economic situation would worsen in the coming year and 78 percent said they felt less secure this year than a year ago, IRI said.
Pakistan’s government is tackling a surge in Islamist violence and a balance of payments crisis. The country’s stock market has plummeted this year, along with the value of the rupee, while oil and food prices have soared.
Of the 3,500 adults from across the country who took part in the survey, more than three-quarters — 77 percent — cited an economic issue as their top concern, with inflation topping the list.
On the issue of extremist activity, 51 percent of those polled said they saw Taliban and Al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan as a serious problem, up six percentage points from June.
As a result, the poll revealed an increase in support for the Pakistani army’s campaign against militants in the country’s northwestern semi-autonomous tribal areas to 38 percent, from 27 percent in June.
But Pakistanis remain firmly opposed to US missile strikes against militant hideouts in the tribal belt, with only 13 percent in support.
IRI put the poll’s margin of error at 1.66 percent.