The South Asia Channel

U.S. Congress to vote on Afghan interpreter visa program

Key legislation

U.S. lawmakers are set to vote on two different pieces of legislation Friday that could impact thousands of former and current Afghan interpreters who are seeking U.S. visas (Post).  The Afghan Allies Protection Act was passed in 2009 to help Afghans who were risking their lives by working for the U.S. mission, and are seen as legitimate targets by the Taliban and other militant groups, move to the United States once their work had concluded.  But only a small percentage of these visa requests -32 of more than 5,700 applications - has been approved.  A Senate bill would extend the program, set to expire next September, to 2015 and broaden coverage to include interpreters for coalition forces, media organizations, and non-governmental organizations.  A House proposal would also extend the program but would cut the number of available visas by two-thirds.

A mob attacked an Afghan medical doctor and his female patient in Sar-i-Pul province on Thursday after reports that he was treating her in a private examining room without a chaperone (NYT).  Provincial authorities said there was nothing indicate the relationship between Dr. Ajmeer Hashimi and Mahboba, a midwife, was anything but professional, but local villagers from the town of Sar-i-Pul stormed the office, throwing Hashimi from a second-floor window, and stoning him in the street.  There were conflicting reports about the doctor's health -- whether he was killed or being treated at a local hospital -- but the midwife is recovering at a local women's shelter. 

Three Afghan National Army soldiers were killed and three were wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Badghis province on Friday, while one border guard died and another was wounded in a similar attack in Herat province (Pajhwok).   And according to Afghan and U.S. officials, six militants were killed in separate clashes with security forces in both Paktika and Khost provinces (Pajhwok, Pajhwok). 

Hundreds of women from Jamiat-i-Islah took to the streets of Kabul on Thursday to protest the proposed "Elimination of Violence against Women" law and asked parliament to reject it (Pajhwok).  The activists chanted that parts of the law - such as prison sentences for husbands who threaten, intimidate, or beat their wives - are un-Islamic and against Koranic teachings.  Saeeda Hafeez, the chief of the party's female wing, said that Islam gives females all rights and there is no need for other laws.

Under siege

A siege on the production office of an Ahmadi-owned magazine in Lahore has entered its second month, according to the Express Tribune (ET).  The magazine, The Lahore, had been published every Friday for 62 years until members of the United Khatam-i-Nabuwat political party, an anti-Ahmadi group, forced the magazine's owners from the premises in April.  Since then at least eight men have patrolled around-the-clock to prevent the removal of anything from the building.  Founded by poet Saqib Zervi in 1951, The Lahore published cultural, economic, literary, political, and social material - content the United Khatam-i-Nabuwat members believe is blasphemous. 

Islamabad police revealed on Friday that they had arrested Abdullah Umar, an alleged al Qaeda militant involved in the killing of Chaudhry Zulfiqar, at a private hospital in Rawalpindi on Tuesday (Dawn).  Zulfiqar was the prosecutor in the Benazir Bhutto murder case and was killed last month while he was on his way to court.  Umar was found recovering from injuries he sustained during the attack.

More than 1.6 million Afghan refugees currently living in Pakistan may find their legal statuses nullified if the new government doesn't extend their stay past June 30, according to Ziaur Rehman, Commissioner of Afghan Refugees (Dawn, Pajhwok).  Nearly one million of these refugees reside in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and some have been there since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

YouSoon?

Pakistan is considering an end to it's nine-month ban of the popular video-sharing website, YouTube, but only if Google installs a "proper filtration system" to remove content Muslims may find offensive (RFEFL).  The site was banned in September 2012 after clips of the movie "Innocence of Muslims" sparked protests throughout Pakistan.  While Google has restricted service in a number of other countries, it will take time to research Pakistan's laws and build partnerships with local content creators. 

-- Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall 

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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