ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is more popular in Pakistan than President Pervez Musharraf, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Nearly three-quarters of Pakistanis also oppose unilateral US military action against Islamic insurgents in Pakistan's tribal areas, said the poll for Terror Free Tomorrow, a US-based organisation.
The survey "may help explain why Osama bin Laden remains at large in Pakistan and why both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have regrouped there," the group said in a statement.
It said it polled 1,044 people across Pakistan between August 18 and August 29.
Military ruler Musharraf, facing the biggest political crisis of his eight years in power and increasing pressure from Washington to tackle extremism, is the biggest in from the poll.
It said his approval rating was 38 percent behind 46 percent for bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks who is believed to be hiding on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Bin Laden's ratings jumped to 70 percent in the Islamist-ruled North West Frontier Province.
Musharraf's main rivals, the former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, enjoy favourable opinions of 63 percent and 57 percent respectively.
The survey was carried out several days before Musharraf deported Sharif, the man he ousted in a bloodless coup in 1999, within hours of his return from exile on Monday.
Pakistani chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, whom Musharraf tried to sack earlier this year, had a 69 percent favourable rating, the survey said.
In comparision US President George W. Bush was seen as favourable by just nine percent of Pakistanis.
Meanwhile only 13 percent of people here said they would support US military strikes without Islamabad's cooperation -- a threat issued by several US officials in recent months.
But a majority back the Pakistani military, without US support, pursuing Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters inside Pakistan, the poll showed.
Terror Free Tomorrow is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation whose advisory board includes Republican US presidential candidate Senator John McCain, according to the group's website.
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