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Pakistan poll: A nuanced view of Islam

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8 January 2008 13:36

This timely poll reveals the nuanced views of urban Pakistan. Large majorities say it is important for them to live in a country governed according to Islamic principles and 60 per cent believe Shari’a law should play a larger role than it does today. But balance that with the 59 per cent who say they would like to see the Talibanisation of daily life in Pakistan decrease or stay about the same and 64 per cent in favour of Madrassah reform. Big majorities also favour living in a democracy and having an independent judiciary. Interestingly, of those favouring a greater role for Shari’a, 64 per cent see democracy as ‘absolutely important’.

On combating religious extremism, views are similarly calibrated. A large majority had negative views of Islamist militant organizations such as al Qaeda, local Taliban, and Pakistani militant groups. They also favour phasing out the Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ special legal status and integrating them into the country’s overall legal structure. But an overwhelming majority (80 per cent) oppose allowing foreign forces to enter Pakistan to pursue al Qaeda militants, nearly half (48 per cent) show at least some sympathy for Taliban attacks on NATO troops, while 72 per cent saw the US military presence in Asia as the most critical threat to Pakistan’s vital interests. Finally, almost no Pakistanis (2 per cent) believe Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan.

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