Pakistan’s Middle Class Extremists

Graeme Blair, C. Christine Fair, Neil Malhotra, and Jacob N. Shapiro in Foreign Affairs:

PAKISTAN_-_Donne_picchiate To test the assumption that poor people are more likely to become radicalized, we fielded a 6,000-person, nationally representative survey of Pakistanis in the four provinces of Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) in the spring of 2009.

The survey measured attitudes toward four important militant groups: al Qaeda; the Afghan Taliban; the so-called Kashmiri groups, which include Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, among others; and sectarian groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba. The survey was much larger than any previous effort and, for the first time, included rural Pakistan. Previous studies had been undermined by low response rates, perhaps because they asked Pakistanis directly about their support for militant groups. Instead, we measured attitudes toward the groups using an indirect questioning technique called an “endorsement” experiment. We presented respondents with a set of four policy issues, including World Health Organization’s administration of polio vaccinations and the redefinition of the Durand Line separating Pakistan from Afghanistan, and asked how much they supported each. Some respondents were told that one of the four militant groups supported the policy. Comparing the support for each policy of those who were told a militant group supported the policy with those who were not gives the measure of support for the group.

The data revealed four findings that undermine common wisdom about support for militancy in Pakistan. First, survey participants were generally negatively inclined toward all four militant organizations. Contrary to some popular accounts, Pakistanis do not have a taste for militants.

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