Tide of Pakistani public opinion turns against the Taleban
MORE than 80 per cent of Pakistanis view the Taleban as a critical threat to the country, a poll released yesterday said.
It marked a major shift in public support behind the government's campaign against the fundamentalist Muslim militants. The turn in public mood is a boost to the military in its offensive against the insurgency.
Pakistan's army has been battling militants in the Swat Valley in the north-west, a campaign that has driven some two million civilians from their homes since April.
The military has also expanded its campaign to the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan along the border with Afghanistan, where top Taleban and al-Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding.
The survey, conducted in May, showed 81 per cent of Pakistanis believe the activities of the Taleban and other extremists were a "critical threat", up from the 34 per cent polled on the same question in September 2007. Despite the refugee crisis triggered by the Swat operation, 68 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in the government's handling of the campaign, and 70 per cent said their sympathies lay with the government – compared with only 5 per cent for the Taleban.
A majority of Pakistanis have always opposed Islamist extremists, although they have not necessarily viewed them as a threat to the country. Distrust of the United States and anger at the invasion of Afghanistan – coupled with a widely held view that Islamabad was acting against the militants at the behest of Washington – has also influenced the debate.
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