How many in Pakistan are sympathetic to the extremists?
Pakistan, some say, is on the brink, and extremists are gaining control of the country. The Swat Valley takeover by the Taliban has come on the heels of the Mumbai attack by Pakistani terrorists and then there was the recent attempt to murder the Sri Lankan cricketers. No doubt the Taliban wants to take over Pakistan. As I have mentioned before, I do not believe that a country founded on, or based on religion, can succeed. I mean, as a democracy. MJ Akbar has articulated this very well in a recent article:
Multi-religious, multi-ethnic, secular, democratic India was an idea that belonged to the future; one-dimensional Pakistan was a concept borrowed from the fears of the past. India has progressed into a modern nation occasionally hampered by backward forces. Pakistan is regressing into a medieval society with a smattering of modern elements…His [Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s] heirs began to concede space to mullahs like Maulana Maudoodi who asked, in essence, that if Pakistan had been created to defend Islam, then who would be its best guardians?
And when the first Constitution of Pakistan (1956) proclaimed Pakistan as an “Islamic” state, the seeds for the future were sown, even though those who founded Pakistan would have been horrified if they saw Pakistan today. Horrified by the violence in the name of religion, and horrified by the suicide attacks that have killed and maimed thousands of people.
Not that many in Pakistan support suicide attacks. Considering that there have been about 120 suicide attacks in Pakistan in the last two years, it’s not surprising that there is little support today for suicide attacks in Pakistan (details here.) But suicide attacks are one thing, and the Taliban, another.
Even if Pakistanis don’t support suicide attacks, do they support the religious extremists?
None of us want to believe that the average Pakistani supports the extremist elements in Pakistan, but it is believed that there is some support. One reason why the Pakistani Army is finding it difficult to combat the Taliban is because the armymen see the extremists as a lesser evil than the United States. Also, many of the extremists are not really the hardcore Taliban, but just religious mullahs who are mostly anti-America.
Not just the Army, but ordinary Pakistanis also distrust the US and are not keen on cooperating with it, something that seems necessary if Pakistan has to get rid of the Taliban. A US government poll in 2008 revealed that as many as 63% of ordinary Pakistanis were opposed to cooperating with the United States, but well, this was down from the 71% the previous year!
The more violence there is on Pakistani soil (by the extremists) the more the Pakistanis lean away from the Taliban. And on the other hand there are the US missile strikes which damage the Pakistani ego and fuel hatred for the United States. That these strikes have been successful in disrupting the Taliban of that there is no doubt, because the Taliban they say is running away from the border areas…into the heart of Pakistan!
A Pew survey conducted last year (predominantly urban) showed a fair amount of sympathy for the Taliban and the al Qaeda in Pakistan, although it is the older Pakistanis who are more sympathetic to the extremists.
As Pakistan seem to be divided on this issue (partly because of their distrust of the US), the Taliban has taken full advantage of it. The fact that the Taliban hates India and has vowed to “free” Kashmir is also something that might make some people more sympathetic to the Taliban.
The good news is that with the recent violence in Pakistan, there is every likelihood that the support for the terrorists has decreased significantly from last year. The figures above are a year old and one hopes that more people from across the border will realise that their enemy’s enemy is not necessarily their friend.
Related Reading: Muslims turning away from terrorism but the world is against them
Some opinions of India from Pakistan
Top ten myths about Pakistan unraveled
Failed States of the world
Benazir’s assassination benefited Musharraf
Kashmir – where are you heading?