– AP/File

A recent Pew survey reveals that Pakistanis rank higher than the global median for freedom to practice religion. However, the country ranked low in other categories including supporting gender equality, believing in freedom of expression, a free media and Internet.

In order to better understand the fundamental democratic values governing a country’s population, a recent survey by Pew Research Center polled 38 countries on matters of religious freedom and freedom of expression.

The Global Attitudes Survey was conducted in the UK, America, France, middle-eastern countries, Turkey, Pakistan, India, South East Asian countries, north and west-African countries, and Latin America. Almost all countries surveyed agreed it is somewhat important to live in a country that fosters free speech and allows the press and internet to run uncensored.

African and Asian countries typically expressed less support for equal rights and freedoms than European, Latin American, and (some) middle-eastern countries. Pakistan almost always fell on the tail end of all statistics.

Pakistanis support freedom of religious practice

A global median of 74pc illustrated that it is important for people to freely practice their religion. In Pakistan, the figure was higher than the median, at 84pc.

-Pew Research Center

A correlation was found between people’s sentiments and their personal relationship with religion and spirituality. People who considered religion an integral part of their life were more likely to believe that others should also be allowed to practice their religion freely.

This was the only category where some European countries ranked lower than the global median. In France and Poland, only 52-55pc of the population agreed with the statement. Vietnam and North Korea showed the lowest interest in freedom for religious expression (less than 50pc).

-Pew Research Center

A country for men

The survey asked people if they believed women should be afforded the same rights as men. Compared to the global median of 65pc, only 62pc of Pakistanis agreed that women should enjoy equal rights.

While Pakistan ranked higher than other Muslim countries eg. Turkey (48pc) and Jordan (44pc), it still fell behind the region’s average. In India, for example, 71pc of the population favoured equal gender rights.

According to the survey, the Middle-East is one of the worst places for gender equality, with the notable exception of Israel (69pc) and Lebanon (75pc). European and Latin American populations ranked the highest. In these countries, more than 80pc respondents supported equal rights.

Furthermore, the survey showed that gender equality is a bigger concern for women than men. While 76pc of women interviewed in Pakistan felt that they should be given equal rights as men, only 52pc of men concurred. This, conversely, ranks Pakistani men on the lower end of the survey, since most countries (including the ones with lower medians), boasted greater percentages of male support.

PEW noted that countries where the gender gap was particularly marked were all emerging and developing nations.

The right to censor

51pc of Pakistanis felt that freedom of expression should be a fundamental right, although only 41pc afforded the same rights to media outlets.

North America, South America, Europe and Lebanon ranked highest on support for free expression and an uncensored press (60-70pc). The survey found that people earning higher incomes were more likely to support a free press. Countries with higher levels of education also displayed a similar correlation, which could help explain Pakistan’s low ranking in supporting freedom of press.

The only countries that ranked worse than Pakistan were India (41pc), and Vietnam and Indonesia (both at 35pc).

Shifting the question to online freedom, only 25pc of Pakistanis felt that people should be able to browse the internet without censorship. Pakistan was among the lowest countries ranked.

Once again, European and American populations were more supportive of a free internet. According to PEW, attitudes towards internet freedom are closely linked with access to internet. Non users, for example, are less likely to oppose internet censorship.

A fair vote

When asked whether honest elections should be held regularly with a choice of at least 2 parties, only 45pc of Pakistani respondents said yes. Pakistan was among the only five nations (the others being India, Tanzania, Indonesia and Vietnam) where people did not feel strongly about fair and free elections with at least two parties, possibly because having less than two parties has never been a problem for these nations.

The global median for this question was 61pc.

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