Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pakistanis turn on Taliban, but resent U.S. -poll

WASHINGTON(Reuters) - Public opinion in Pakistan has turned sharply against the Taliban and other Islamist militants but Pakistanis still do not trust the United States and President Barack Obama, a poll showed on Wednesday.

The poll, conducted last month as Pakistan's army fought the Taliban in the Swat Valley, found that most Pakistanis see the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda as a critical threat to the nuclear-armed country.

Those Pakistanis who view Islamist militants and local Taliban as a critical threat to their country rose to 81 percent, up from 34 percent in a similar poll in late 2007, the University of Maryland polling project found.

Respondents who described al Qaeda's activities as a critical threat to Pakistan rose 41 percentage points to 82 percent in the same period.

The findings were based on face-to-face interviews of 1,000 adults in the Urdu language across Pakistan from May 17-28. The findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, the University of Maryland polling group said.

The university's Program on International Policy Attitudes conducts polls around the world.

In the poll, seventy percent voiced sympathy for their government over the Pakistani Taliban in the fight for Swat, a scenic district near Pakistan's capital that was overrun by Islamist militants earlier this year.

Seventy-two percent said they were confident Pakistan's army could handle the situation.


The shift in Pakistani public opinion on Islamist militants operating within Pakistan represented a "sea change" caused by "widespread revulsion" at brutal tactics and undemocratic policies of the Taliban when they briefly controlled Swat, poll research director Clay Ramsay said in a statement.

He added that the poll indicated "the U.S. is resented just as much as before, despite the U.S. having a new president."

Sixty-two percent of those questioned expressed low or no confidence that Obama would do the right thing in world affairs. Only 32 percent stated they thought his policies would be better for Pakistan than predecessor George W. Bush's policies.

U.S. drone attacks on militant camps within Pakistan were called unjustified by 82 percent of those in the poll.

Large majorities opposed all aspects of the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.

On Afghanistan, 61 percent said it would be bad if the Taliban took over that country, while 87 percent said Taliban groups who seek to overthrow the Afghan government should not be permitted to have bases in Pakistan.

Obama's election did not boost the popularity in Pakistan of the United States or U.S. policies, the poll indicated.

Seventy-two percent disapproved of the war in Afghanistan and 79 percent wanted it ended now, while 86 percent disapproved of Obama's decision to more than double the number of U.S. troops in that country, to 68,000, by the end of 2009.

Asked about Obama's goals, 93 percent agreed with the view that he sought to impose American culture on the Islamic world, and 90 percent supported the notion that he wanted to weaken and divide the Muslim world, the survey showed.

What next for Pakistan's Swat valley?

ISLAMABAD- Pakistani soldiers are clearing the last pockets of Taliban in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, after two months of fighting, the military said.

Fighting in the northwest has forced nearly 2 million people from their homes, most of them from the former tourist valley of Swat.

Following are some questions and answers about the Swat offensive, which has won the praise of ally the United States.


No Taliban leaders have been among the approximately 1,600 militants the army has reported killed in Swat. Independent casualty estimates are not available. A Swat Taliban spokesman said this week his leaders were alive and determined to fight on. Analysts say eliminating Taliban leaders is key to ending the insurgency. The government has announced rewards for 18 senior Swat Taliban including top leader Fazlullah. The army says it is out to kill them.


The army can hold main towns and roads, but militants can be expected to lurk in far-flung corners of the valley. The security forces are struggling to stop suicide bombers striking in main cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar, and the government has already said bomb attacks are likely in Swat even after the military officially winds up its operation there.

Soldiers are expected to remain in the valley for at least a year but the military, which is about to get embroiled in what is likely to be a much tougher fight against Pakistan's Taliban leader in South Waziristan, will want to see police quickly assuming greater responsibilities.

Taliban attacked poorly paid and equipped police in the run-up to the offensive, and some abandoned their posts. Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of the police. Analysts also say it will be important to establish quickly a robust civil administration that should focus on some of the grievances that the Taliban exploited, including an ineffective judiciary.


The government has said power, gas and phone lines are being restored and the displaced can start going home within days. The North West Frontier Province government is expected soon to make an announcement on when people can start going back. Authorities have said people will be allowed to go back to specific areas in phases. But aid workers say many of the displaced are worried about security and reluctant to go home, fearing the Taliban will make a comeback.

Army Chief briefs PM of Swat military operation

ISLAMABAD :Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani Wednesday called on Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and briefed him about the ongoing military operation in Malakand Division.

The Prime Minister said the nation is proud of its armed forces particularly those who laid their lives for the national cause.

They discussed matters relating to national security.

The Army Chief also apprised the Prime Minister about his recent visits to France, Germany and Russia.

Terrorism claimed over 3,000 lives in tribal areas: report

PESHAWAR: Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) secretariat has issued the report of monetary and human losses done by terrorism and extremism in the tribal areas.

A 21 pages report revealed that more than $2 billion damages were done by terrorism in tribal areas.

Tribal areas suffered most as compared to other parts of the country. More than 3,000 people were killed in tribal areas during terror activities. Bajaur Agency was the worst hit area where 600 people were killed. The wake of terrorism claimed five hundred lives Kurram Agency, South and North Waziristan. The number of people wounded in terror incident is over 3,000.

According to report, the initial property losses is estimated up to $103 million whereas the losses estimated in economic and social sectors are $119 million and $109 million respectively.

Extremism takes its toll in agriculture sector also in the form of $188 million losses. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) expenses estimated $572 million.

The report disclosed that militants are equipped with latest weapons whereas in contrast of this, Khasadar Force have outdated arms insufficient for retaliatory action against militants.

The personnel of Khasadar and Levies getting Rs.3,500 salary per month while militants getting Rs.10,000 to 15,000 per month. The report termed this major inequality as the basic reason of unrest in these areas. The estimated $two billion is needed for reconstruction and rehabilitation of tribal areas, it added.