US Airstrikes in Pakistan: More Harm than Help?

US Airstrikes in Pakistan: More Harm than Help?
  • 87% of online respondents say drone attacks are not acceptable at all in Pakistan.
  • 24% of online respondents feel Pakistan’s government had ignored or condemned the drone attacks.
  • 47% claim drone attacks in Pakistan are acceptable for the purpose of eliminating terrorists.

Since 2004, the United States has conducted hundreds of drone attacks against suspected terrorists in Pakistan, sparking debate as to how effective the attacks have been. Terror caused by drone attacks has hindered people in their daily life; with some Pakistanis criticizing United States over innocent lives lost in the attacks. The new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, has called on Washington to end its drone attacks inside Pakistan.

Majority of Pakistanis Concerned About Terrorism

When asked to identify which issues are ‘very important’ for Pakistan to deal with, 84 percent of online respondents said ‘improving the safety of people living in Pakistan’, followed by ‘eliminating terrorists’ (81 percent), and ‘restricting the movement of terrorists’ (79 percent).

On The Use of Drone Attacks

More than half of all online respondents feel Pakistan’s government has ‘accepted’ drone attacks (52 percent), while a similar proportion agree Pakistan’s government has ignored or condemned the drone attacks (24 percent). The majority (85 percent) of online respondents state drone attacks conducted by the US government are not acceptable at all, in comparison to half that (42 percent) who feel the same about drone attacks conducted by the government of Pakistan. However, one-fifth of online respondents say drone attacks conducted by the Pakistani government are completely acceptable (17 percent), and over one-quarter say they are somewhat acceptable (26 percent).

When online respondents were asked how they feel about drone attacks in Pakistan specifically, the majority (87 percent) stated they are not acceptable at all. Additionally, a similar proportion says drone attacks are not acceptable at all in Somalia/Yemen (74 percent) or on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan (72 percent).

Half of online respondents think drone attacks in Pakistan are acceptable to eliminate terrorists (47 percent), followed by similar proportion that say they are acceptable to restrict movement of terrorists (32 percent) or to improve safety of people living in Pakistan (31 percent). More than two-fifth of online respondents say drone attacks are not acceptable at all for any reason (44 percent).

Effective or Not?

More than two-thirds of online respondents say drone attacks have been very ineffective in improving the safety of people living in Pakistan (67 percent), and a similar proportion say they have been ineffective in maintaining a stable government (64 percent). Respondents also say they have been ineffective in stopping the spread of extremism (62 percent). Further, almost half of online respondents claim drone attacks have been very ineffective in eliminating terrorists (46 percent), while nearly one-quarter say they have been somewhat effective (24 percent). Nearly half of online respondents in Pakistan say drone attacks have proven ineffective in restricting the movement of terrorists (48 percent).

When we asked online respondents what they thought would happen if they were to ask the US to cease drone attacks, only one-fifth believe they would stop the attacks completely. Three-fourths of online respondents agree that even if after the US stopped the use of drone strikes terrorism began to increase in Pakistan, they would not want drone strikes to begin again.

In Their Own Words:

‘No one has the right to intervene in any country's issues until that country's establishment or government asks for it personally.’

‘USA should continue drone attacks in Pakistan & Afghanistan to curb the terrorists’

‘Would the united states let Russia to carry out drone attacks in US if there is some internal issue inside US?’

‘There are lot evidences that due to drone attacks innocent people (children, women, men) killed. So drone attacks must be stopped and Pakistani Government should adopt other option to stop terrorism and fine the cause of terrorism.’

The survey was conducted using the YouGov Online Panel and all questionnaires were completed between the 9th- 16th September 2013. The results are based on a total sample of 1013 respondents currently living in Pakistan. The YouGov panel is broadly representative of the online population within Pakistan. 

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