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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008, 10:34 GMT
Musharraf 'obstacle to stability'
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (pictured 24 January)
The findings are gloomy news for President Musharraf and his allies
A majority of Pakistanis say stability and security in Pakistan would improve if President Pervez Musharraf resigned, according to a BBC World Service poll.

The survey of more than 1,400 people across Pakistan suggested support for Mr Musharraf has fallen dramatically.

Pakistanis are preparing to vote in parliamentary polls on Monday that many fear could be rigged.

Mr Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has promised that the elections will be fair.

"Despite all rumours, insinuations and every type of apprehension, these elections will be free, fair, transparent and peaceful," Mr Musharraf said in the capital, Islamabad, on Thursday.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is holding what it says is a major campaign rally.

A party official said the pre-election gathering in the city of Faisalabad in Punjab province will be the last one addressed directly by Asif Ali Zardari, Ms Bhutto's widower and successor as party leader.

Thousands of party supporters have been gathering for the event amid heavy security.

The PPP traditionally draws its support from the southern province of Sindh.

Punjab, home to more than half of all Pakistanis, is a key electoral battleground, where the PPP will compete for votes with its rivals - the two opposing factions of the Pakistan Muslim League, PML-Q and PML-N.

Focal point

Pakistanis polled by the BBC World Service were divided about whether the general elections scheduled for 18 February would be free and fair.

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A nationally representative sample of 1,476 Pakistani adults were polled from 27 to 28 January 2008 on behalf of BBC Urdu.

They were also asked a question relating to the judiciary and the sacked former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry.

He has become one of President Musharraf's most outspoken critics - and a focal point for opposition to the government - since the president first tried to dismiss him last year.

People were asked whether they thought the new National Assembly, which will be elected next week, should try to re-instate Mr Chaudhry.

Almost two-thirds of the people questioned said they thought it should.

Popularity

All this is gloomy news for President Musharraf and his allies, the BBC's Jill McGivering says.

BBC WORLD SERVICE POLL
64% say stability would improve if Musharraf resigned
49% say his re-election in November was invalid
44% say they are confident elections will be free and fair
51% say they are optimistic conditions will improve over next six months
Source: GlobeScan

It supports the findings of another recent poll conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI), which also suggested that the president's standing was being eroded, compared with a similar IRI poll released in mid-December.

The results of the latest poll found a particularly low approval rating for his performance. Only 15% of people asked said they approved of the job he was doing, while 72% disapproved.

That compared with an approval rate of 30% at the end of last year. Three-quarters of the people asked said they would like him to resign.

That number too has increased. His overall popularity rating had also declined (by 12 points) since the last survey.

A spokesman for President Musharraf told the BBC the poll did not represent public opinion.

He dismissed the finding that almost half of those surveyed did not regard Mr Musharraf's re-election in November as valid.

"It is something that doesn't stand to reason," Rashid Qureshi said.

Conspiracy theories

In recent months, a series of events have helped to change the political landscape. The murder of Ms Bhutto on 27 December created a wave of sympathy for the opposition.

Benazir Bhutto at a rally in Rawalpindi, 27/12/08
There has been dispute over the cause of Bhutto's death
Her widower and the new co-chair of her Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Asif Zardari, has so far managed to keep his party unified and opinion polls suggest that the PPP may have strengthened its position.

In contrast, there has been a backlash against President Musharraf and his government since Ms Bhutto's death.

Although a recent investigation by UK detectives supported the government's version of events surrounding her assassination, suspicions and conspiracy theories have persisted, especially amongst PPP supporters.

When the team carrying out the BBC-commissioned poll asked people who they thought was responsible for her death, almost 40% said they thought the Pakistani security agencies or people linked to them were responsible.

The poll was conducted before the release of the UK police findings.



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