February 10, 2010
The geopolitical reasons for the Pakistani state to tolerate militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba are well known. Yet there is precious little evidence about why average Pakistanis tolerate and even support groups that do so much to harm their nation's interests and reputation, as well as the safety of their fellow citizens. Because militant groups cannot survive without some popular backing, understanding why Pakistanis support them is a significant national security challenge for Pakistan, the United States, and the international community.
Journal Article, International Security, issue 3, volume 34
Western interest in Pakistan increased dramatically with the rise of the Taliban and other militant groups. Current U.S. policy toward Pakistan rests on four factors that purportedly explain Pakistani support for militancy: poverty; personal religiosity and approval of sharia law; support for legal Islamist political parties; and failure to support democracy. A survey of the sentiments of the Pakistani public, however, shows that these conventional wisdoms may be mistaken. To undermine support for militant groups, therefore, policymakers must pay greater attention to determining who supports militant organizations.