Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is ahead of former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in popularity ratings but an overwhelming 70 per cent of Pakistanis want them to return from exile, according to a survey.
The survey conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI), a wing of the US Republican party, also said 52 per cent of the respondents believed that elections under a neutral caretaker government would be more transparent.
Musharraf emerged on top of the popularity rating with 3.47 points on the scale of 1 to 5. Bhutto was in second place with 3.31 points, while Sharif with 3.17 points trailed behind Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who was given a surprise rating of 3.18 points, the Dawn newspaper said quoting the yet to be released survey.
It added that IRI officials had a made a presentation on the survey to Bhutto in Dubai last week and to Sharif in London earlier.
The reaction of Bhutto and Sharif to the findings was not known but the two exiled leaders could take heart from the fact that 70 per cent of their countrymen questioned in the survey wanted them to return home.
In a similar survey in June, the figure stood at 66 per cent.
Another surprising finding was that 22 per cent of the respondents thought Shaukat Aziz would be the "Best Prime Minister", a setback for Bhutto who was on the top of the list in the previous survey.
This time she scored 19 per cent and Nawaz Sharif only 11 per cent. A significant 16 per cent of the respondents did not know who can be the best premier.
It appeared that somehow Aziz improved his public standing in just three months, the survey said.