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The Return of the Taliban? 

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Given the current situation in Waziristan, one often comes across news about the alleged activities of the Al-Qaeda as well as the presence of Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan. Gallup Pakistan has tried to give maximum possible coverage to the activities of the Al-Qaeda along with the Afghan government in general in its weekly surveys and polls.
In 2005, respondents were asked if they thought Al-Qaeda was still active. In response, 44% of the people thought that it was still functioning, 40% believed that it had ended and 16% said they were not sure. 28% also believed that members of the Taliban were still in hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan, 13% felt that this was not so while 58% were doubtful.
The same questions were repeated in 2006. 63% believed that Al-Qaeda was functional and 30% thought that it had ended. Also, 26% agreed with the claim that members of the Taliban were still present in Pakistan, 25% believed that this was not so and 47% expressed their uncertainty.
In the summer of 2006, the people were also questioned about Osama bin Laden’s supposed death. 64% of the respondents believed that he was still alive, 25% considered him to be dead and 9% said that they did not know. 17% of those questioned also believed that he was hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan, 43% were against this notion and another 40% said that they had no idea. 40% of the people also believed that the statements attributed to Osama bin Laden which had been observed on the internet were in fact Osama’s own words. 45% considered these statements to be false while 15% were uncertain.
A comprehensive survey regarding the Afghan government and Taliban was also conducted in 2006. 20% of the people were of the view that Pak-Afghan relations had improved over the past few years, 25% asserted that they has worsened, 33% felt that there had been no change and the remaining did not offer a definite opinion. 46% were of the view that the Afghan government’s allegations against Pakistan for helping the Taliban were incorrect, 19% considered them correct and 35% were unsure. 29% believed that the US forces will soon leave Afghanistan, 16% said that they would not do so anytime soon and 31% said that they could not say.
22% believed that the chances of the Taliban regaining control over Afghanistan were very high, 50% felt that it was unlikely and 21% were of the opinion that it was not possible. 40% of the Pakistanis were of the view that the Pakistani government should help the Taliban, 33% said that it should remain neutral, 9% stated that it should oppose them and 17% were unsure. Similarly, 13% of those questioned viewed the previous Pakistani government’s relations with the Taliban to be very good, 28% rated them as good, 35% considered them as average, 14% viewed them as bad and 4% thought of them as very bad. 11% considered the Taliban’s overall performance to be very good, 30% considered it to be good, 34% stated that it as average, 13% viewed it as bad and 4% thought it was very bad.
At the same time, 71% blamed the United States for the unrest in South Asian countries, including Afghanistan and Iran. 14% held Israel responsible and 7% indicated towards the European countries.
One could safely say that the country is deeply divided as far as the Taliban are concerned. A more thorough research, however, indicates that the majority still prefers to side with Al-Qaeda. . In 2006, following the death of Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqavi, 33% of the people stated that they had felt very distressed when they first heard about his death, 39% claimed that they were somewhat distressed, 14% stated that they were not that upset and 10% asserted that they did not feel any remorse. This is a very surprising observation especially if one considers the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the negative publicity generated against Al-Qaeda by the international media.
These surveys and polls were conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of Gallup International, on a sample of over 1100 respondents in urban areas of all four provinces of Pakistan. This sample was statistically selected across all ages, income groups and educational levels. The error for a sample of this kind is estimated to be +/- 5% at a 95% confidence level.

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