In another sensational survey by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat), the leaders of this country are cut more slack than they should. According to the survey, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has emerged as the most popular leader ,followed by his younger brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and arch political rival and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan.

The Prime Minister remained ahead of the race with an approval rating of 75 per cent and his brother at 72 per cent. The PTI chief on the other hand, could only generate an approval rating of 49 per cent to emerge as the most popular leader after the Sharif brothers. Other national political leaders that the poll included had relatively lower ratings. MQM chief Altaf Hussain emerged as the least popular leader in Pakistan with an approval rating of 13 per cent. PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain also earned a substantially lower rating at 19 per cent, ANP president Asfandyar Wali at 18 per cent and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari 27 per cent. The results have been released from a two-part survey covering separately the quality of governance and democracy.

PILDAT is an “independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit indigenous research and training institution”, by its own admission. There is no reason to question the motives or transparency of the organisation, as it has done good work in the past. However, this seems blatantly far-fetched and manipulated. The respondents for the survey included 3,231 citizens from ‘rural and urban areas from all the four provinces, including various age, income, education and language groups of the population’. This out rightly negates the credibility of such a survey, one that has taken a miserly proportion of the population itself.

Previously, PILDAT identified 21 leading political personalities of Pakistan projected to become Prime Ministers in the next 10-15 years’ time- half of the identified future leaders come from PML-N, including three close members of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family. The report’s analysis of each politician was a flattering profile of achievements and good deeds- criteria according to which the 21 had been selected being very subjective and highly qualitative. Such is the case with this survey as well, one that makes one wonder how transparent the organisation actually is and what its agenda is. People who read the news will look at the pretty acronym and assume the survey results as facts, but the methodology suggests that these results may not hold for the whole population. Statistics is a malleable tool, and it is suggested that readers take matters into their own hands when presented with oddly optimistic approval ratings and polls.