Understanding Support for Islamist Militancy in Pakistan

Publication Year
International Security

Islamist militancy in Pakistan has long stood atop the international security agenda, yet there is almost no systematic evidence about why individual Pakistanis support Islamist militant organizations. An analysis of data from a nationally representative survey of urban Pakistanis refutes four influential conventional wisdoms about why Pakistanis support Islamic militancy. First, there is no clear relationship between poverty and support for militancy. If anything, support for militant organizations is increasing in terms of both subjective economic well-being and community economic performance. Second, personal religiosity and support for sharia law are poor predictors of support for Islamist militant organizations. Third, support for political goals espoused by legal Islamist parties is a weak indicator of support for militant organizations. Fourth, those who support core democratic principles or have faith in Pakistan's democratic process are not less supportive of militancy. Taken together, these results suggest that commonly prescribed solutions to Islamist militancy-economic development, democratization, and the like-may be irrelevant at best and might even be counterproductive.


Jacob N. Shapiro and C. Christine Fair. “Understanding Support for Islamist Militancy in Pakistan.” Quarterly Journal: International Security, vol. 34. no. 3. (Winter 2009/10): 


Publication Topic
Publication Type
Academic Journal Article