Musharraf Quitting Would Boost Security, Pakistanis Say in Poll
By Ed Johnson and Khalid Qayum

Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s stability and security would improve if President Pervez Musharraf resigned, 64 percent of Pakistanis said in an opinion poll published today, the latest survey to indicate dwindling support for the former general.

Forty-six percent said they lacked confidence the national ballot scheduled for Feb. 18 would be free and fair, according to the survey for the British Broadcasting Corp.

“While many Western governments have supported President Musharraf in the belief that he offers the only hope of a stable Pakistan, average citizens in the country disagree with this assessment in large numbers,” said Doug Miller, president of GlobeScan Inc., an international research company that helped develop and analyze the poll. Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi’s phone rang unanswered when contacted for comment.

Musharraf, 64, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, has withstood months of street demonstrations against his rule. Spiraling terrorist attacks, including the Dec. 27 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, have shaken investor confidence in Pakistan.

U.S. intelligence agencies are critical of his efforts to control extremists and say al-Qaeda has established bases in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The number of people killed in terrorist attacks and sectarian violence more than doubled last year in Pakistan to 2,116 from 967 a year earlier, the Interior Ministry says.

Bhutto Assassination
The survey for BBC Urdu was conducted by Gallup Pakistan between Jan. 27 and 28. It interviewed 1,476 Pakistanis aged more than 18 nationwide. No margin of error was given.

Asked about Bhutto’s assassination, 16 percent said they believed the government’s assertion that Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and his al-Qaeda-linked network were responsible, the BBC said.

Thirty-nine percent said they believed “the Pakistani security agencies or people linked to them” were responsible for the gunfire and suicide bomb attack in Rawalpindi that killed the opposition leader.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents regarded Musharraf’s re- election, in which he won a majority of votes from lawmakers in the Oct. 6 presidential ballot, as “valid.” Forty-nine percent of respondents said it was “invalid.”

Twenty-five percent said security in the country would get “worse” in the event he stepped down.

Army Chief
Musharraf quit as army chief on Nov. 28 and was sworn in for a second five-year term as president a day later.

A survey by the Washington-based International Republican Institute forecast this week that political parties opposing Musharraf would win next week’s elections to the 342-member Parliament and the four provincial assemblies.

Seventy-five percent of respondents wanted Musharraf to resign, up eight points from the previous opinion poll in November, according to the institute.

Eight percent of respondents said Musharraf “was the best person to handle the country’s problems,” dropping from 15 percent in November, according to the survey.

The institute said it interviewed 3,485 adult men and women from rural and urban areas in Pakistan’s four provinces between Jan. 19 and Jan. 29.

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