ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In the last couple of years, Washington has tried to earmark a bigger chunk of its aid to Pakistan for civilian projects that would engender goodwill with the country's intensely anti-American populace. The latest polling suggests that the step-up in that aid isn't doing any good.
About 75% of Pakistanis regard the U.S. as an enemy, according to a new poll released this week by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Three years ago, 64% of Pakistanis surveyed said they viewed America as an enemy. A growing number of Pakistanis also feel that improving relations with Washington isn't a major priority, the poll found. Last year, 60% of Pakistanis surveyed said strengthening ties with the U.S. was important; this year only 45% said they feel the same way.
The U.S. channels hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic aid to Pakistan every year. Much of that aid is supposed to target Pakistan's biggest needs, such as the country's crippling power crisis and its weak education system. Nevertheless, the poll results indicate that Pakistanis haven't been swayed by the assistance.
About 40% of Pakistanis surveyed said they think that U.S. economic and military assistance actually has a negative effect on their country. Only 12% said they believe that economic assistance from Washington helps solve Pakistan's problems.
Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan are at their lowest point since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. Anger over American airstrikes that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November was preceded by the secret U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the military city of Abbottabad in May 2011, which Pakistanis viewed as a blatant breach of their sovereignty,- and the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in the eastern city of Lahore in January 2011.
Those events have served as rallying cries for a Pakistani population that for years has viewed Washington as arrogant and untrustworthy. The Obama administration’s heavy reliance on drone missile attacks as a primary tactic against Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal northwest has further intensified Pakistan's animosity toward the U.S. Pakistanis view the drone attacks as violations of their country's sovereignty and charge that they kill civilians as well as militants.
According to the Pew survey, only 17% of Pakistanis surveyed said they support U.S. drone strikes as a tactic against Islamic militants based in Pakistan. Pakistanis also appeared less willing to back the use of their own military against Islamic extremists. Among the Pakistanis surveyed, only 32% supported the deployment of Pakistani security forces against extremist groups, a sizable drop from 53% three years ago.
The survey was based on 1,206 face-to-face interviews with Pakistanis between March 28 and April 13.
-- Alex Rodriguez
Photo: Pakistani protesters shout slogans beside a burning NATO flag during a demonstration against drone attacks Wednesday in Multan. Credit: S.S Mirza / AFP/Getty Images