WASHINGTON, Oct 7: Support for strict separation between religion and government has grown steadily in Pakistan over the past five years, says a US survey released this weekend.

Majorities in 47 countries, surveyed by the Washington-based PEW Institute for public opinions, agree that religion and politics do not mix.

But opinions are moving in opposite directions in two key Muslim allies of the United States. Support for strict separation between religion and government is growing in Pakistan, while in Turkey support for such separation has declined significantly in the past five years.

Pakistanis who believe that religion and government should remain separate were only 33 per cent of the population in 2002. Five years later their size grew to 48 per cent, a 15 per cent increase. In Turkey, support for secularism declined by 18 per cent over the same period. In 2002, 73 per cent Turks said they believed religion and politics did not mix. Although secularists are still a majority in Turkey, their size declined to 55 per cent in 2007.

In all 47 countries surveyed, at least seven-in-ten respondents believe that education is equally important for boys and girls.

Most people also believe that men and women are equally qualified for political leadership, although there is less agreement on this issue.

Sizeable minorities in several predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia – and a majority in Pakistan – say that a woman’s family should choose her husband.

In Pakistan, 82 per cent of those surveyed also say that growing trading ties between countries are good while 52 per cent say they are very good.