Kashmir not core issue: Pak citizens
16 February 2002
The Times of India
Islamabad: Conducted on January 27 and 28, The Herald poll attempts to gauge where urban Pakistanis stand on the key issues confronting the country in the wake of President Musharraf’s ground-breaking speech on January 12. A ''stratified disproportionate sampling'' procedure was employed so as to ensure suitably large numbers from all socio- economic classes. This poll is demographically balanced and stratified according to economic class. The sample is representative of the country’s primary urban centres Karachi and Larkana in lower and upper Sindh; Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi-Islamabad in central, southern and northern Punjab; Quetta in Balochistan; and Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province. Each city is awarded a roughly equal share in the sample. The survey, which does not cover rural Pakistan, carries a margin of error ranging from three to five per cent. A team of 112 interviewers (56 male and 56 female) conducted standardised face-to-face interviews. What is the most pressing problem? Should jehadi organisations be supported? Who is responsible for militancy in Kashmir? How would you describe yourself ideologically? Should Musharraf continue as president? Should the army get involved in politics? Who''s encouraging extremism? Do you support ban on jehadi groups?What is the most pressing problem? Perhaps the most shocking statistic of this survey, the fact that only one per cent of urban Pakistanis consider the restoration of democracy an issue is also the easiest to misinterpret.A typical misinterpretation would take it to mean that only one per cent of Pakistanis desire democracy. That is certainly not the case.The question asked was, ‘‘what is the most pressing problem facing the country today?’’ Given that elections have already been promised and an entire package of electoral reforms is in place, a majority of the respondents are naturally confident that at this point in time, restoration of democracy is not an ‘issue’ —as opposed to a pressing need.What is truly interesting, and quite expected, is that for a majority of Pakistanis, economic issues take precedence over everything else. As the survey shows, the two most pressing concerns, along with the threat of war with India, are unemployment and inflation. Exploring the responses in detail also indicates that unemployment and inflation affect urban Pakistanis across the socio- economic spectrum.For example, men are more worried about unemployment than women who are more concerned about inflation given that they are the ones to manage domestic budgets. Similarly, concern regarding unemployment and inflation is the highest in the least privileged group. None of the respondents in this group consider issues such as law and order, restoration of democracy, corruption and religious extremism to be pressing problems.Another interesting finding relates to Kashmir. Despite the fact that the conflict in Kashmir has brought Pakistan and India to the brink of a potentially devastating war, only four per cent of urban Pakistanis consider it to be a pressing problem. Interestingly, concern for Kashmir is the highest among the well-heeled (over five per cent), while being the lowest in the middle class (just over one per cent).Sadly, though, the crumbling education infrastructure appears to be way down on the list of urban Pakistanis’ concerns. Overall, only two per cent of Pakistanis regard education to be a pressing problem. But interestingly, concern for education is relatively higher in the middle cadres as compared to the elite or the least privileged.