A survey of Pakistanis living near the worst-hit areas of 2005
earthquake finds enduring positive attitudes toward foreigners,
Is all that foreign aid flowing into Pakistan in the aftermath of
last month's massive floods changing the way Pakistanis feel about
the West, and in particular the United States?
Public opinion surveys conducted in Pakistan in the past have
suggested that the country's very low opinion of Westerners, and
Americans in particular, doesn't improve much as a result of sudden
foreign largess in response to a natural disaster.
But a new study plumbing the views of more than 28,000 households
in 126 villages in the part of Pakistan devastated by a massive
earthquake in 2005 finds that attitudes toward foreigners, including
Americans, shifted significantly to the positive and in an enduring
manner as a result of assistance from abroad.
"What we found is that trust in foreigners changes in response to
action," says Tahir Andrabi, a political economist at Pomona College
in Claremont, Calif., who organized the study with Jishnu Das, a
World Bank research economist. "The big picture from our work says
that what you do on the ground as a country and a people really does
Debate over the impact of foreign aid and what role it plays in
improving America's image abroad has bubbled ever since the 9/11
terrorist attacks and the ensuing national probing around the theme
of "Why do they hate us?" Surveys showed that opinions of America
improved sharply among Indonesians after significant US assistance
flowed in following the 2004 tsunami. But similar polls in Pakistan
suggested that minor improvements in America's rock-bottom image
after the 2005 earthquake were soon lost.
Subsequent surveys of Pakistani opinion also have suggested no
lasting improvement in views of the US and Americans. The question
is resurfacing once again in the wake of the summer's centennial
floods and the significant assistance the US has provided.
At a ministerial meeting at the United Nations in New York
Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the
US has provided about $345 million in what was initially rescue and
emergency aid efforts and which has now shifted to relief and early
recovery work. The American military was involved in the rescue of
more than 15,000 people and in delivering more than 7 million pounds
of food and other supplies, she said. …