A public opinion survey conducted by the Washington based World Public Opinon.Org shows more Pakistanis perceive Taliban and al-Qaida as a critical threat. But it also shows Pakistanis' negative opinion about U.S. policies remains unchanged.
According to the poll, there has been a major shift in Pakistan in how the people perceive Taliban and al-Qaida militants. Clay Ramsay is the Research Director of the World Public Opinion.Org, the group that conducted the survey.
"Eighty-one percent now see the activities of the Islamist militants and Taliban in the FATA area as a critical threat to Pakistan while in the fall of 2007 when we asked the same question, only 34 percent saw them as critical," said Clay Ramsay.
The poll shows that now 82 percent of Pakistanis see al-Qaida as a threat to Pakistan's national interests, as compared to 41 percent just 18 months ago.
But according to the poll, the views about the United States are still negative, with 69 percent of Pakistanis feeling unfavorably toward the United States government. But the pollsters note the poll was taken before U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo that addressed Muslims across the world.
The poll was taken between May 17 to 28, after the Taliban in Swat Valley had violated the peace accord with the government and taken control of the Buner district nearby. That prompted the government to launch an all out crackdown on the Taliban in the valley.
The poll shows that 69 percent of the people express confidence in the way the government of President Asif Ali Zardari is dealing with the Swat Valley problem and 72 percent of the people approve of the way the Army is dealing with the Taliban.
"The public seems definite that the Pakistani Taliban represents a road they don't want their country to go down," he said. "We asked them what if the Pakistani Taliban were to gain control over all of Pakistan. And 75 percent called this bad, 67 percent said it would be very bad. At the same time a majority see such a takeover of the whole country as unlikely."
The poll shows that a large majority of Pakistanis, 71 percent of them, feel that whereas the Taliban want to apply strict Sharia Islamic laws on the people, they themselves will never submit to the jurisdiction of the Sharia courts. Again Clay Ramsay.
"This may seem a small point," said Ramsey. "But it can be important how militant groups are perceived in the future because the willingness to accept a rule for yourself if you want to impose it on others is often basic to people's perception of fairness"
A majority of Pakistanis also do not agree with the Taliban interpretation of the Islamic law. The Taliban are against women going to work and girls going to schools. But 75 percent of the people say Sharia allows women to work and 83 percent say it also permits girls to get education in schools.
The poll shows while almost 88 percent of Pakistanis think al-Qaida or Afghan Taliban should not be allowed to run training camps inside Pakistan, 81 percent of the people are against U.S. bombings of such camps.
"Asked about the current U.S. Drone aircraft attacks to strike targets in Northwestern Pakistan, 82 percent called them unjustified, only 13 percent disagreed," he said. "If the U.S. were to identify Afghan Taliban bases in Pakistan, 79 percent said it would not be justified to bomb them, though we have seen that this type of action is supported now when carried out by Pakistan's own government."
And 79 percent of the respondents also felt that the NATO mission in neighboring Afghanistan should be ended.