According to a number of public opinion polls conducted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India during 2008, 2009 & 2010, the majority of the population, especially the younger generation, wants peace and security in their respective countries. Here are the results of a select set of polls from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan:
1. Peace between India and Pakistan: A joint public opinion poll conducted by the two leading newspaper groups, Jang in Pakistan and Times of India in India, in January 2010, indicated that 72% Pakistanis and 66% of Indians want “peaceful relations between the two countries”.
2. Peace in Kashmir: According to a “Peace Poll in Kashmir” conducted on June 30, 2008:
Ø 81% of the respondents said that the “conflict in Kashmir must be resolved through negotiation, and
Ø 87% indicated security in Kashmir is “essential or desirable”.
Ø Among the Muslim population in Kashmir, 70% said “armed struggle is totally unacceptable, and 54% said politicians are using the “Kashmiry people for their own interest”.
3. The Need for Job Creation in Pakistan: The British Council’s “Next Generation Report” on Pakistan (November 2009) reported that Pakistan is currently experiencing a “demographic dividend”. This means that Pakistan now has more productive youth than dependents, resulting in a favorable ratio of productive young to old. Of the current estimated 180 million people in Pakistan, 50% are under 20 years of age and 66% are under 30.
According to the report, this ratio is a window of opportunity for Pakistan to rebalance its economy. If planned carefully to harness the energy of this young generation, Pakistan could help itself to build a strong nation with economic prosperity and peace.
“If we fail”, said Durr-e-Nayab of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, “Pakistan will face a demographic disaster as large scale unemployment and immense pressure on health and education system could develop into a crisis”.
This demographic disaster could become a breeding ground for extremism that would threaten the security of the region, the U.S. and the rest of the world.
4. Opinion on Suicide Bombers: An analysis of polls from a dozen Muslim countries by Fawaz Gerge of the London School of Economics found that “90% of Pakistanis surveyed are opposed to suicide attacks which is up from 43% in 2002."
5. Opinion on the Taliban: In a recent poll by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies on the “Radicalization in Pakistan: Understanding the Phenomenon”, June 6, 2010:
Ø 46.3% of the participants “categorically denied that the militant group (Taliban) was fighting for Islam, and
Ø 37.9% “condemned the acts of violence – such as attacks on CD shops, girls’ schools and cinema etc.”
6. Opinion on India: An opinion poll, titled “Voices of Pakistan”, commissioned by the weekly magazine, OPEN, in January/February 2009, and conducted by a leading marketing agency in Pakistan, Synovate, reported that:
Ø 58% of Pakistanis admire India’s democracy
Ø 49% of Pakistanis admire India's economic strength
Ø 41% of Pakistanis admire India's Judiciary, and
Ø 51% of Pakistanis admire India's military strength.
7. Attitudes toward the Taliban in Afghanistan: A national opinion poll commissioned by the BBC, ABC News and ARD of Germany on February 9, 2009 indicates that:
Ø Afghans are still resolutely opposed to the return of the Taliban, but increasingly disillusioned and uncertain about what the future might hold for their country.
Ø When asked if things in Afghanistan were heading in the right direction, only 40% agreed – compared with 54% a year ago, and 77% in 2005.
Ø Hostility to the Taliban remains very strong throughout the country, with only 4% wanting them back,
Ø 58% said the Taliban are the biggest danger to Afghanistan.
Ø 90% said they are opposed to the Taliban, and
Ø 84% said that the Taliban are weak or non-existent in their own areas.
9. Attitude towards women in Afghanistan:
Ø An overwhelming majority (86%) of Afghans surveyed said they agreed to
the principle of “equal rights regardless of gender, ethnicity, and religion”.
Ø A significant majority of survey respondents were in favor of women's
rights to education and work. Almost half of the respondents felt that men
and women should have equal representation in political leadership.
These public opinion surveys clearly illustrate that there is public support for peace as well as the desire for normalizing relationship among countries in the region.