Television poll predicts slim win for PPP

MUMBAI: A BBC World Service commissioned pre-election poll in Pakistan forecasts a narrow lead for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in the forthcoming general elections

Mian Azhar of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) (Quaide Azam) (Q) is expected to be the next prime minister. The opinion poll commissioned for is the biggest of its kind in Pakistan and was conducted in advance of the general elections on 10 October 2002.

The poll demonstrates major regional differences on issues such as allegations of pre-election rigging, the ban on militant organisations and the performance of the military government. It was conducted in 99 cities and towns and more than 100 villages throughout Pakistan. A total of 2,827 Pakistanis of voting age were asked their opinion about the elections in face-to-face interviews. A clear majority of respondents did not believe the elections would be completely free and fair, however 24 per cent of those interviewed said they either didn't know or didn't want to comment.

A majority of voters in Sindh province believed that the PPP would win while the PML (Q) enjoys much greater support in Punjab and Balochistan. According to the survey, the PML Nawaz Group (N), which once enjoyed a strong support in urban Punjab, appears to be losing its mass appeal. Only 12 per cent of respondents thought that it would win a majority of seats, with only 18 per cent of Punjabis predicting its win.

In response to the question of who is going to be the next prime minister of Pakistan, Mian Azhar emerged as the front runner with 17 per cent lead, followed closely by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Farooq Laghari and Imran Khan. Women respondents put Imran Khan as the front runner to form a new government. He also enjoyed more support in Sindh than Mian Azhar and Farooq Laghari.

The survey also revealed the continuing strength of traditional political allegiances. Benazir Bhutto was rated both the best and the worst prime minister over the last two decades. Nawaz Sharif emerged as both the second best and the second worst prime minister over the same period. 54 per cent of the respondents believed that Benazir Bhutto should have been given permission to return and participate in elections. Nawaz Sharif scored slightly lower with 50 per cent.

General Pervez Musharraf enjoyed considerable support in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) with 60 per cent saying his tenure has proved good for the country. When asked to compare General Zia and Musharraf, Punjabis found General Zia a better ruler than Pervez Musharraf. However, 55 per cent of respondents in Balochistan preferred Musharraf to General Zia.

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