Who is Popular ?

Eighty-three per cent of Pakistanis want President Pervez Musharraf to be removed and judges to be restored, according to a survey released by the US-based International Republican Institute on Thursday.

Coming three-and-a-half months after a coalition made up of anti-Musharraf parties formed a government, the IRI survey said Nawaz Sharif was now the most popular leader, because of the uncompromising position he has taken over the issues.

In contrast, the Pakistan People’s Party has been hurt by its ambivalence over the reinstatement of judges and how to tackle Musharraf. Yet 52 per cent of respondents said they were optimistic that things would get better in Pakistan under the new government.

The uncertainty in Pakistan is worrying Western powers and neighbours in the region, who fear a transition to civilian-led democracy could founder at a time when the threat of Islamist militancy is growing and the economy is floundering.

The country’s benchmark stock index has shed 35 per cent from a life high in April, depressed by investors’ worries about the political situation and its impact on the economy. The survey from the IRI, a US government-funded organisation chaired by US presidential contender John McCain, said Musharraf’s job approval ratings had dropped to 11 per cent. Only three per cent of people surveyed thought he was the best person to handle Pakistan’s problems.

Conducted between June 1-15, the IRI survey showed that of the 3,484 people, 82 per cent say that they like Sharif, up from 36 per cent in June 2006 when he trailed Musharraf and Bhutto.

When asked who they would support in a future parliamentary election, PML-N was the choice of 36 per cent, up from the 29 per cent who said they voted for the party in February election. Sharif and Zardari disagree on the fate of senior judges Musharraf dismissed when he imposed emergency rule in November to stop the Supreme Court ruling on the legality of his re-election while army chief. Despite Zardari’s hesitancy confronting Musharraf, IRI’s poll found his popularity rating had gone up to 45 per cent from 37 per cent in the last poll released in February.

For Survey Graphs click here

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