Former premier Nawaz Sharif has emerged as Pakistan's most popular leader with 71 per cent people backing him as 'President' while incumbent President Asif Ali Zardari's popularity has dipped further, even behind that of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a survey has found.
According to a poll conducted by US-based International Republican Institute in March, 71 per cent supported opposition PML-N chief Sharif when they were asked who they would prefer as president. Sixteen per cent selected Zardari, said the survey released in Islamabad on Monday.
The time-frame in which the poll was conducted coincided with the climax of a movement launched by Sharif and his brother Shabaz Sharif against the Supreme Court's order barring them from holding elected office. The protests forced the government to restore deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and weakened Zardari's grip on power.
The survey indicated that Pakistanis are of the "overall opinion that conditions in the country remain poor, and as president of the country, Zardari is viewed as responsible". Respondents gave Zardari an approval rating of 19 per cent, unchanged since the last poll in October 2008.
The number of people viewing Sharif favourably increased 15 points to 75 per cent, placing him well ahead of the rest of the field. Asked who they felt was the best person to solve the problems of Pakistan, 55 per cent of respondents named Sharif, up from 31 per cent in the last poll by IRI.