Pakistanis Reject U.S. Help Fighting Militants, Poll Finds
The New York Times
By Jane Perlez

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Even with the arrival of the Obama administration and the prospect of substantially increased aid, more Pakistanis — an overwhelming majority — continued to reject the United States as a partner to fight militancy in their country, a new poll finds.

The survey, conducted by the Washington-based International Republican Institute, underscored the difficulties the Obama administration faced in its efforts to tamp down Islamic militancy in this strategically vital nation.

The I.R.I. is a nonprofit pro-democracy group which is financed by the American government.

President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a relatively inexperienced politician, scored a 25 percent approval rating how he’s handling his job, 6 points more than in March.

His chief opponent, Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, garnered a 67 percent favorable rating, down from 75 percent in March.The findings come as Washington is poised to spend $1.5 billion in assistance for Pakistan in the coming year, a big jump in American funds intended to help strengthen the civilian government rather than the military.

The poll confirms the persistent strand of anti-American discourse in Pakistan in the last few years, and its release coincides with particularly strong attacks in the Pakistani media about the American Embassy’s hiring private security firms to protect American diplomats.

Even as the Obama administration takes pride in the new funds for Pakistan, the increased aid has been criticized in the Pakistani news media and among politicians as too little, one calling it “peanuts.”

Face-to-face interviews were conducted July 15 to Aug. 7 with 4,900 adults throughout Pakistan’s four provinces, excluding areas in the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus one percentage point. The survey results will be available on the institute’s Web site,, on Friday. The I.R.I. has conducted surveys in Pakistan since 2002.

A troubling aspect of the findings for the Obama administration, analysts said, was the significant increase in the rejection of the United States as a partner in the war against Islamic militants.

According to the poll, 80 percent of the respondents said they were opposed to United States assistance in Pakistan’s fight against terrorism, a 19 percentage-point increase since the last survey conducted by the institute in March.

The survey says that 76 percent of the respondents were opposed to Pakistan partnering with the United States on missile attacks against extremists by American drone aircraft. Such strikes have been under way for several years against militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the tribal areas, and have recently intensified.

An American missile from a drone aircraft killed Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in August, a strike that was assisted by Pakistani intelligence, officials said.

There were various reasons for the harsh attitude toward the United States, even as the Obama administration tried to reach out to Muslim nations, said Kamran Khan, a prominent journalist and the anchor of the most widely watched television news show.

“Most Pakistanis are exposed to the popular media and to extremist clerics who provide this perception,” Mr. Khan said. “The American side of the story is not available to the people.”

The American military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq colored Pakistani views of the United States, Mr. Khan said. “The United States is seen as an occupying force and moving unilaterally against Muslim nations.”

Although Mr. Obama was perceived as more “trustworthy and plain speaking,” Mr. Khan said these attributes were not enough to outweigh the hostility to American policies.

In order to improve American standing in Pakistan, the special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, had ordered an overhaul of the public diplomacy programs and was sending several seasoned diplomats to bolster the embassy, a senior American official said.

A public affairs strategy centered on the American desire for a strong relationship with Pakistan and focused on describing the common enemy as Al Qaeda and the Taliban was about to begin, the official said.

The new effort included spending about $30 million on educational and cultural exchanges between Pakistan and the United States, and providing more Fulbright scholarships for Pakistanis to study at American universities.

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