Pakistan’s plight, in one striking chart

May 9, 2013

This chart shows Pakistani public opinion about their country's direction, according to a new Pew study. (Pew)

The run-up to Pakistan's national election Saturday has focused attention on a number of the country's ongoing challenges, from corruption to security. If you had to sum them all up in one chart, you might use the one at the top of this post, from Pew's new report, "Dismal Public Mood in Pakistan."

Dismal might be an understatement: A majority of Pakistani poll respondents have said they are dissatisfied with their country's direction every year since 2006. That majority has now reached 91 percent.

What are the problems driving this remarkably negative public opinion? There's outrage against the national leadership (President Asif Ali Zardari has only a 14 percent favorability rating), economic dissatisfaction (81 percent say the economy is "bad") and perceived security threats, from the Taliban to India. A stunning 95 percent of Pakistanis call crime a "very big problem" for the country; 93 percent say the same about terrorism, 77 percent about "corrupt political leaders" and 70 percent about "access to clean water."

The national government has not always succeeded in winning public trust. The influence of entrenched political and military elites, weak institutions and other factors can all mean that, according to The Washington Post's Richard Leiby, "democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality."

And there's the political violence. Leiby reported Tuesday on the militant groups that are now targeting liberal as well as Taliban-friendly Islamist political parties and their supporters. From his story:

About 100 people have been killed since April in violence against candidates and party supporters, according to media tallies. Some experts say the election — a landmark democratic achievement that is expected to bring the transition of one elected government to another — has turned out to be the bloodiest in the country’s history.

The bombings this week also have sent a message that militants will spare no one involved in the democratic process, which they condemn as a violation of Islamic tenets.

There's no single factor or variable driving all of these challenges, of course. But they all contribute to the country's sky-high public dissatisfaction, charted dramatically above.

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Max Fisher | May 8, 2013