The BBC World Service recently released a survey which questioned some 13,500 respondents in 21 countries around the world on popular perceptions of the world's most powerful or newsworthy nations in 2008. Germany topped the favourable list, with an average of 61 percent describing its influence as 'mainly positive' and only 15 percent who said it was 'mainly negative'. At the bottom of the list came Iran, the most negatively viewed country, with an average of 55 percent of respondents describing its influence as mainly negative and 17 percent as mainly positive. Pakistan came narrowly ahead with 55 percent negative and 17 percent positive. Things have changed during the first three months of this year and it is quite possible that Pakistan has now usurped the bottom spot from Iran. One of the members of this PPP government, one of its few responsible members who does not hide in a cocoon wrapped up in a sense of denial has asked a question of his fellow Pakistanis: How do we change this? How indeed - given the leadership under which this country is quashed. Asif Zardari, who sailed in with the slogan made famous by his wife when she uttered it in 1989 when addressing a joint sitting of Congress in the USA - democracy is the best revenge. But the spirit in which it was said by Benazir Bhutto is worlds away from the manner in which her husband is applying it. For the second time in six months, he had declared, without any intention of carrying out his declaration, that he would surrender the powers he inherited from the president he displaced (dishonouring a 'deal' struck with the US and Pervez Musharraf). He did not allow the Parliament to tackle a suitable amendment but used stalling tactics and had ordered the formation of a committee to come up with something - what had not been spelled out. Why should he relinquish his all-encompassing powers? Who can take him to task? Well, the mighty military could, but not at this juncture after the latest revelation of US policy with regard to Pakistan. The US, of course, could, but they seem quite happy with him for the moment. Day by day, as bombs explode and as people die, as guns are fired and more people die, the world's perception of Pakistan worsens. It has surely worsened even more with Barack Obama on March 27 telling an audience he was addressing at the White House that Pakistan is the most dangerous place in the world (nothing startlingly new in this). Coincidentally with his remark came the news that a suicide bomber had blown up himself and some 70 people at a mosque, during Friday prayers, in Jamrud, just up the road from Peshawar. Two days later the world witnessed an attack on the police training school just outside Lahore - Lahore already being world famous for the armed assault of the Sri Lankan cricket team earlier in the month. The fact that the vale of Swat has been handed over to the deadly Taliban also does not help, the government and the army both having abdicated responsibility for yet another area in Pakistan. No help either are videos of Taliban floggings and other atrocities committed in the name of justice and the sharia that are circulated around the internet. No help either are the shenanigans that have taken place in Punjab put under a vengeful Governor's Rule. So, the negative perception all boils down to leadership, pure and simple. In fact, we have a large void where we should have leaders who can lead and deliver democracy, security, and a sense of pride in the nation. How can there be a positive perception of a nation of 170 million, faced with a crumbling economy, advancing extremism, rising corruption, an internal war inexorably expanding throughout its heartland and an arsenal of nuclear weapons? A grand reversal in mindset is needed. Jinnah's words must be heeded at some stage - that religion is not the business of the state. The writer is a freelance columnist