August 13, 2009

Pakistani Public Opinion

Chapter 2. Religion, Law, and Society

Pakistanis give religious leaders high marks for the influence they are having on the way things are going in their country, and overwhelming majorities express support for giving religious judges and Muslim leaders the power to decide family and property disputes. The survey also finds broad support for severe laws, such as the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion, across all segments of the population.

Yet, despite expressing harsh views about crime and punishment, Pakistanis are much more progressive in opinions about the importance of educating girls. As Taliban militants continue their efforts to prevent girls from receiving an education by burning down and bombing girls’ schools, the public is now nearly unanimous in saying that both boys and girls should be educated.

The survey also finds that majorities of Pakistanis in all major ethnic groups think of themselves first as Pakistani rather than identifying primarily with their ethnicity. This is especially the case among the Punjabis, the Pashtuns, and the Muhajirs. Sindhis are more likely than other groups to say they identify first with their ethnic group.

High Regard for Religious Leaders

Nearly two-thirds (64%) in Pakistan say that religious leaders are having a good influence on the way things are going in their country; in 2007, 61% expressed this view while in 2002 just half said religious leaders were having a positive influence. Moreover, about seven-in-ten (71%) favor giving Muslim leaders and religious judges the power to decide family and property disputes.

Women are somewhat more likely than men to say that religious leaders should have the power to decide family and property disputes, but solid majorities in both groups share that view. Nearly three-quarters of women (74%) favor giving religious judges and Muslim leaders this power, compared with 68% of men.

Surprisingly, those who say religious leaders are having a bad influence on Pakistan are as likely as those who say they are having a good influence to favor giving Muslim leaders and religious judges the power to decide family and property disputes. More than seven-in-ten in both groups say they favor it.

Support for Severe Laws

Pakistanis overwhelmingly favor stoning people who commit adultery (83%), and comparable percentages favor punishments like whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery (80%), and the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion (78%). Support for strict punishments is equally widespread among men and women, old and young, and the educated and uneducated.

Even those who say they identify with the modernizers in a struggle between Islamic fundamentalists and those who want to modernize the country support these measures. About nine-in-ten (91%) Pakistanis who side with the modernizers favor stoning adulterers. A similar proportion of those who side with modernizers (89%) favor punishments like whippings and cutting off of hands for theft and robbery, and 86% favor the death penalty for people who leave Islam. These views are virtually identical to the views of those who identify with Islamic fundamentalists.

Widespread Support for Educating Boys and Girls

The view that it is equally important for boys and girls to be educated is nearly unanimous in Pakistan; 87% say that is the case, while 6% say education is more important for boys and 3% say it is more important for girls. In 2007, about three-quarters (74%) said it was just as important for girls to get an education as it was for boys.

Identical proportions of men and women now say education is equally important for boys and girls (87% each), but men are more likely than women to say that it is more important for boys to be educated (9% of men say this, compared with 3% of women). In 2007, 17% of men and 16% of women said it was more important for boys to receive an education; 72% of men and 76% of women expressed support for educating boys and girls two years ago.

Most Say They Are Pakistanis First

When asked whether they think of themselves primarily as Pakistani or as a member of their ethnic group, roughly nine-in-ten (89%) say they see themselves first as Pakistani.

Majorities among all four major ethnic groups analyzed say they think of themselves first as Pakistani. Close to all Punjabis (96%) – the nation’s largest group – say they see themselves first as Pakistanis, as do 92% each of those who identify themselves as Pashtuns or Muhajirs.

Sindhis are somewhat more likely than other ethnic groups to identify with their ethnicity. Just over half of Sindhi people (55%) say they see themselves as Pakistani first, while close to three-in-ten (28%) say they first identify as Sindhi; another 16% volunteer that they see themselves as both equally.

In terms of Pakistan’s regions, large majorities in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) (98%) and Punjab (96%) say they see themselves as Pakistanis first, rather than identify themselves first by their ethnic background. Ethnic identification is slightly more common in Baluchistan and Sindh. In Baluchistan, the southwestern territory with rugged terrain and sparse population, 32% say they identify themselves first by their ethnicity and 58% say they identify themselves first as Pakistanis. In Sindh, with its concentration of Sindhi people, 72% say they think of themselves first as Pakistani rather than by their ethnic background; 13% think of themselves first by their ethnic identification; and 10% volunteer that they think of themselves as both equally.