Zardari visits conflict refugees

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari paid a rare visit today to some of the 2.4 million people displaced by a military offensive against the Taliban, promising they would soon return home.

“Keep your morale high and face the difficulties with courage,” said Zardari, addressing thousands of families who took refuge in Jalozai camp, in the northwest Swabi district that once housed Afghan refugees.

“I can imagine your feelings because my children have also suffered and they have also been separated from their mother,” said Zardari, referring to the assassination of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, in December 2007.

The government at the time blamed Bhutto’s killing on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

He denied involvement but has threatened to carry out attacks in Pakistan and the United States to avenge Washington’s air strikes.

“You are not alone at this hour of tribulation. The entire Pakistani nation is with you. The government is with you and the Pakistan army is with you,” said Zardari, whose approval rating has hit rock bottom in recent times.

Reiterating his determination to expunge extremist violence, he said his government was doing everything to help the displaced return home. “The day is not far off when you will return in a better atmosphere than that which forced you to abandon your homes,” he said.