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THE STANS
Pakistan's Imran Khan leaves hospital after fall
by Staff Writers
Lahore, Pakistan (AFP) May 22, 2013


Afghan interpreters to get British visas
London (AFP) May 21, 2013 - Around 600 Afghan interpreters who served with British forces fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will be allowed to stay in Britain, the government revealed on Wednesday.

Prime Minister David Cameron initially opposed calls to allow interpreters and their families to settle in Britain, but backed down following a campaign.

He is now preparing to offer five-year visas to those who served on the front line for a year or more.

The interpreters say they face the threat of being attacked by the Taliban in their homeland because of their work with foreign forces.

"The PM has been very clear that we should not turn our backs on those who have trod the same path as our soldiers in Helmand, consistently putting their lives at risk to help our troops achieve their mission," said a source from Cameron's Downing Street office.

"We should recognise the service given by those who have regularly put themselves in real danger while working for us.

"These proposals give them a choice: the opportunity to go on working in Afghanistan, learning new skills and to go on rebuilding their country or to come and make a new start in Britain."

Those who wish to remain in Afghanistan will receive an improved financial offer under the new plans.

They will be paid their salary for five years if they train or study or be paid for 18 months if not.

Cameron earlier said that Afghan interpreters should only be allowed to stay in Britain "in extremis".

"I do think that when we think of all that we have spent and all the cost in money and human lives we have put into Afghanistan, we should do everything we can to encourage talented Afghans to stay in their country and contribute to it," he added.

Britain is set to withdraw 3,800 of the country's 9,000 troops from Afghanistan this year, as the NATO-led foreign force prepares to withdraw all combat troops by the end of next year.

Pakistani politician Imran Khan left hospital Wednesday, two weeks after breaking bones in his back in a fall at a rally for the country's general election, where his party scored a major breakthrough.

The 60-year-old was ordered to remain immobile in bed after he fractured vertebrae and a rib in a dramatic tumble from a hoist lifting him to a stage just days before the May 11 general election.

The former cricket star who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party electrified much of the campaign with his calls for reform and galvanised many young people to vote, but was forced to spend polling day in hospital.

Khwaja Nazir, a spokesman for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital in the eastern city of Lahore, where Khan was being treated, told AFP that the Pakistani politician had been discharged on Wednesday and returned to his home in the city.

"He would stay in his Lahore home for three days and then would be shifted to his home in Islamabad," Nazir said.

"Doctors have advised him rest, for two more weeks."

On Tuesday Khan took his first steps since the injury and a video on the hospital's Facebook page on Wednesday showed him walking gingerly but unaided from his third-floor room to the exit.

He has been fitted with a specially-designed spinal brace which doctors say he will need to wear for some time.

"Imran will continue to receive regular physiotherapy and will need to wear a spinal support for some weeks to come," the hospital spokesman said.

"Imran will gradually increase physical... activity over the next few weeks with a return to his full functional capacity expected in approximately six to eight weeks."

The election was won by the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, but the PTI scored a major breakthrough, finishing in third place with 28 national assembly seats, according to partial results.

Though the "tsunami" predicted by Khan did not sweep PTI to power in Islamabad, the result represented a huge achievement for a party that had only ever won one national assembly seat before, in 2002.

The party also emerged as the largest in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and will lead a coalition government in the restive province, which borders the lawless tribal districts along the Afghan frontier and suffers frequent militant violence.

On Sunday PTI won a repeat election in one constituency in violence-plagued Karachi, where polling was re-run after allegations of ballot-stuffing, a day after a senior party official was gunned down in the street.

Khan blamed the killing on the rival Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party, which has long held sway in the southern port city, and its leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain, who lives in London.

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