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Zardari's popularity sags - will it undermine Pakistan's fight with Taliban?

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"In many other countries, political parties and leaders would have claimed credit for such a turnaround," he says, noting that the past year has also seen a marked change in public attitudes towards the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The May Pew poll found that 70 percent of Pakistanis view the Taliban unfavorably and 61 percent view Al Qaeda unfavorably, up from just 33 percent and 34 percent, respectively, last year.

Instead, Zardari's failure to "come out of his cocoon" and visit Swat, or to even hold public speeches or press conferences on the issue, have proved politically damaging and allowed Pakistan's all-powerful military, an institution whose reputation took a battering under former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to take full-credit for the operation, says Mr. Raees.

Political blunders, economic crises

The widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007 as she campaigned to return to power, Zardari was elected to a five-year term by parliament in September 2008, following his Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) victory in the general election in February 2008.

Initially welcomed into office in a wave of sympathy, his popularity began to fall away following a series of political blunders, high inflation, a weak economy, and an ongoing energy crisis.

Part of his image problem stems from corruption allegations dating back to the 1990s, when, as a minister in his wife's government, he earned the moniker "Mr. 10 percent" for alleged kickbacks in awarding government contracts.

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