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50pc of Afghans unhappy with govt: survey

November 15, 2012

KABUL: Nearly half of Afghans think their country is not moving the right direction, fear for their family's safety, or are frightened to run into a member of their police or army, according to a nationwide poll.

Concerns about corruption are at the highest level in more than half a decade, and more than a third of people said they would leave Afghanistan if they would. Sizeable numbers also felt job opportunities were down and that electricity supplies had got worse.

Although the proportion of people who think Afghanistan is on the right track rose from last year, the Asia Foundation which carried out the survey, admitted it might be skewed towards positive opinions because they could not access Afghans in the most dangerous parts of the country.

“Respondents living in highly insecure areas — who might be more pessimistic about the overall direction of the country - are likely to be underrepresented,” the report said.

Around one in six places where surveys were conducted in the past had to be changed because of security problems. In some provinces — including Logar, south of the capital, Kabul, and Kunar and Laghman in the east — there were 10 or more changes owing to the Taliban extending their control. A similar number of survey sites had to be changed because of weather, remoteness, transport problems or because villages could not be found; the last of these also raises questions about the accuracy of previous surveys. The survey results were not all negative. Four out of five people questioned said they supported government efforts to end decades of conflict by negotiations, while three-quarters gave a positive rating for the central government.

Four out of five people also said they have some degree of confidence in the police and army, although police approval ratings were down slightly compared with levels in 2006, before billions of dollars were poured into the training and expansion of the force.

But there was a strong perception that people in authority are more focused on serving their own interests than those of their country — from ministers and MPs to court officials to Afghan and international aid organisations. Only ordinary government employees and religious leaders were more often seen as putting the best interests of Afghan society first.

A strong majority of respondents said they believed people should subsume their own political instincts to those of their community; more than 80% agreed with the statement “a person should vote the way his or her community votes, not how they feel individually.”

Only half have noticed improvements to education or efforts to build roads, and even fewer are aware of aid projects for health, water, electricity or mosque construction. Nearly one in 10 of those surveyed said they were a victim of a suicide attack — the highest level since 2007.

Nearly three-quarters of Afghans own mobile phones, a more than 50 per cent increase compared with five years ago, and the radio is still the most popular source of news, with a set in four-fifths of homes. And while in many western countries journalists are battling to hold onto their credibility, the survey found the electronic media is the country's third-most respected institution, ahead of religious leaders and the official judicial system.

By arrangement with the Guardian