Polling Pakistani Attitudes


No matter how different observers have reacted to the massive dumping of classified documents by WikiLeaks on Sunday, one of the themes garnering the most attention was that of connections between the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Pakistan’s powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). As many have pointed out since Sunday evening this is hardly news (though The Atlantic’s James Fallows argues that, in fact, it is), it is startling to see primary source accounts of possible meetings and even operational planning and coordination between our ostensible ally and our enemies in South Asia.
Still, for the moment commentary from Pakistan has been limited, and nuanced interpretations of the data even more limited. One exception to this is Pakistani blogger Mosharraf Zaidi, who often provides a refreshingly honest, intelligent foil to much of the reporting on Pakistani issues in the Western press. Zaidi has an interesting take on what WikiLeaks does and does not reveal about Pakistan. This section in particular stood out to me:

Virtually no serious commentator or analyst anywhere, even those embedded deep in the armpit of the Pakistani establishment, claims that the Pakistani state was not instrumental in the creation, training and sustenance of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. Given the nature of the relationship between the Pakistani state and the Afghan Taliban, one that goes right to the genetic core of the Taliban, it is hard to imagine that all ties can ever be severed. Again, for serious people, this is an issue that is done and dusted. Pakistan’s state, and indeed, its society, had, has and will continue to have linkages with the Afghan Taliban. Moral judgments about these linkages are external to this fact.
These linkages do, however, deserve the scrutiny of the Pakistani parliament. If somehow, Pakistanis are involved in supporting any kind of violence against anyone, that kind of support had better be couched in a clear national security framework that articulates why it is okay for Pakistanis to underwrite such violence. Absent such a framework, the violence is illegal, and the space for speculation and innuendo about Pakistan is virtually infinite. It is that space that Pakistan’s fiercest critics exploit when they generate massive headlines out of small nuggets of insignificant and stale information that implicates Pakistan in anti-US violence in Afghanistan (among other things).

This kind of statement has real policy consequences for the United States, and reinforces the need to understand the Pakistani government’s attitude towards extremist groups and their utility. But it is equally necessary to understand the attitudes of average Pakistanis towards extremism, violence, how their government behaves, and even who Pakistanis perceive to be their real friends and adversaries. This kind of knowledge can inform our approach to Pakistan and South Asia as a whole, from how we deploy our military, to how we give aid, and how we communicate our policies to Pakistanis.
On Thursday July 29, the New America Foundation will host the public launch of the Pew Research Center’s new Global Attitudes Project poll of Pakistani attitudes towards a wide variety of issues. The data will be presented by Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut, with a discussion to follow between Kohut and New America Foundation President Steve Coll. If you are in Washington and would like to attend, please RSVP here. The event will also be livestreamed here at The Washington Note.
— Andrew Lebovich


13 comments on “Polling Pakistani Attitudes

  1. nadine says:

    POS, are you seriously too stupid to understand that documents which are made public on the internet get read by al Qaeda and the Taliban? You think they are all illiterate cave-dwellers? I should have thought that even you would have understood the situation better.
    These 90,000 docs are raw intelligence reports. Most will be out of date. But maybe some are not out of date. Maybe some of the current documents contain names, names of Taliban fighters who will now go underground, names of informants whose lives are now at risk. Maybe even the out of date docs contain useful tips about American methods, which the Taliban commanders didn’t know about before.
    When you do an intelligence dump to the internet, all sides get to read it.
    That’s all right, though. Steve has already told us it was “heroic” to leak intelligence reports. He only gets purse-lipped and disapproving over making clips of public NAACP meetings public. Depends whose ox is gored, don’cha know?


  2. Cee says:

    Thank you POA.
    I’ve been watching what is passing for news and just shaking my head.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    U.S. Officials See Waste in Billions Sent to Pakistan
    Mohammad Iqbal/Associated Press
    Published: December 24, 2007
    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Fight against Terror: Bush Terms Pakistan as Most Valuable Ally
    By Khalida Mazhar ‘Pakistan Times’ US Bureau Chief
    WASHINGTON (US): US President George Bush, acknowledging Pakistan


  5. samuelburke says:

    i hate to have to point this out but, the other side doesn’t seem to
    need any leaks to do very well on their own.
    we on the other hand, do seem to need these leaks to wake us up
    from the msm induced bullshit-trance that they have put the
    sheeeple in.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “.. Taliban and al Qaeda, who have a new trove of intelligence to comb through to fine tune their assessments of American sources and techniques”
    Thats fuckin’ bullshit. Like most of your ridiculous blather.


  7. nadine says:

    Obama has to pay the price of his cheap demagoguery. Obama spent years insisting that the Iraq war was a “distraction” from the “good war” in Afghanistan. He didn’t believe it, but it was a way to oppose Bush without sounding like a pacifist, and it sold well with Democratic primary voters. That was all Obama cared about.
    Well now, to coin a phrase, his chickens have come home to roost. Obama is the Commander in Chief and Afghanistan is his war, to which he committed more troops and his best commander.
    Everybody can tell that his heart is not in it and he’s just looking for an exit — esp. the Taliban and al Qaeda, who have a new trove of intelligence to comb through to fine tune their assessments of American sources and techniques.
    Not a happy situation for Obama (or America), but one of his own making.


  8. ... says:

    wikileaks confirms many ordinary peoples conclusions poa, yours included.. it is nice to have confirmation on a grand scale that obama must now skate around in whatever stupid manner he has to, in order to continue to avoid the obvious…


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I note that this train of discussion is still being motored down a “safe” set of tracks. Early on, immediately following 9/11, (when monkey boy was launching this shameless con-job known as the GWOT), it was KNOWN that an ISI General, (Mahmoud Ahmed), had channeled funds to Mohammed Atta.
    But no one wants to go there, do they? In fact, this General was enjoying a friendly little brunch with Graham and Goss as the incorrectly, (to this day), identified hi-jackers were capitalizing on Ashcroft’s obsession with pursuing evil pornographers in lieu of paying attention to America’s security.
    Then came the wise decision to channel billions of dollars into Musharif’s greedy duplicitous talons. I mean hey, if we are going to ignore the FACT that the Pakistani intelligence services, (or at least one of their top generals in the ISI), were helping to foot the bill to bring down the towers, the least we could do is chip in some operating capital, eh? Scams are expensive to maintain, doncha know? We sure got alot for our money, didn’t we? Personally, from the onset, I was kinda wishing these ill conceived giveaways of our hard earned cash would, at the very least, buy the public spectacle of these treasonous fucks Bush and Cheney hanging from a gallows on the White House lawn, but alas, it was not to be.
    But, uh, whats the big revelation here? That the ISI isn’t working in our best interests? Whats worse, the ISI General that participated in 9/11, (at least peripherally), or the treasonous sacks of SHIT that IGNORED that fact, and pissed away billions of dollars by shoveling it into a military dictatorship that even some outside the beltway carpenter in Bodunk rural America knew would eventually fuck us out of the money while giving absloutely nothing but dead American soldiers in return?
    If we need whistleblowers and Wikipedia to show us what is right in front of our noses we are in deep shit indeed.
    Wow, these leaks told us that we are killing innocent civilians, the ISI isn’t our friend, Karzai and his government is corrupt, and we don’t stand much of a chance of coming out of this clusterfuck with anything positive or beneficial to our nation.
    Gee, who coulda guessed?


  10. JohnH says:

    Imagine if TWN said, “If somehow, Americans are involved in supporting any kind of violence against anyone, that kind of support had better be couched in a clear national security framework that articulates why it is okay for Americans to underwrite such violence.”
    Can anyone imagine the US Congress demanding a strategic rationale for being involved in Afghanistan? Or demanding clear goals and a specified endgame?
    These are tough questions that the US Congress ignores like the plague.
    Zaidi is taking some good Afghan stuff if he thinks the Pakistani parliament will a) ask the right questions or b) be able to effect any change at all.


  11. Don Bacon says:

    I appreciate dedication when I see it, and one must be a truly dedicated American Exceptionalist to refer to the ongoing resistance from a constituted government that the US overthrew as extremism and their fighters as extremists, and then go on to wonder about another government’s attitude toward people so labeled. How could that government possibly be allied with extremists? Yuk.
    It could be worse, they could be terrorists.
    Everybody hates extremists. It’s the moderate Americans that Pakistanis should take to their hearts, the people that abjure extremism and violence (the unbelievable story goes). Pakistanis don’t see it that way.
    Pakistanis don’t see Americans as their true friends, they see America as the true friend of India, Pakistan’s arch enemy. China is Pakistan’s true friend, and has been for six decades. Pakistanis don’t like Americans and they don’t trust them, for good reason.
    The US overthrew Pakistan’s ally the Taliban, then redirected to Iraq, then came back to Afghanistan, then announced a withdrawal from that country, and recently has backed off of that. In the meantime the US directed nuclear aid to India and acted against China’s nuclear assistance to Pakistan, all the while killing Pakistanis with rockets.
    I think that Pakistan’s policies make sense, a lot more sense than the US policies do. Of course that’s not saying much.


  12. Warren Metzler says:

    I don’t know Andrew Lebovich, and don’t remember specific previous posts of his, but this comment is to me very telling of the entire intelligensia class in Washington. “This kind of knowledge can inform our approach to Pakistan and South Asia as a whole, from how we deploy our military, to how we give aid, and how we communicate our policies to Pakistanis.”
    Where in the universe are the facts that make it rational for our country to believe it has a right to interfere with another country. Has not our repeated failures in almost every, or quite possible every, foreign policy application not taught us to get out of the business of acting like we can tell other countries how to behave, or we can decide how various areas of the world function? What is the philosophical basis for assuming the government of the US has a position that benefits it. Is the government of the US not solely and only an administrative organization, that functions so all us citizens can have the infrastructure to go all the things we want to do?
    Where are the facts to substantiate that people sent to Washington by us voters are supposed to generate some policy regarding China, Burma, South Africa, or any other country in the world.
    Do any of these great intellectuals believe it is reasonable for Pakistan to tell our government what policies it should have? How come it only the other way around, we tell them how to behave?
    I have found that life can be mastered, you can learn to get a successful outcome in every activity you do: a result that is excellent and you thoroughly enjoy the process. But to do that, you must develop principles. And I suggest the following principle for US government policy: unless it is an action that each member of that government would take toward the people who live on the same block that person lives, don’t do it.


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