PESHAWAR: A special anti-corruption court on Friday sentenced Sharbat Gula – Nat Geo famed ‘Afghan Girl’ – to 15 days in prison with a fine of Rs110,000. She will also be deported to Afghanistan at the end of her sentence as per the court’s order.
Green-eyed Gula had always insisted that she never deceptively obtained a Pakistani CNIC. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) last month had arrested Sharbat Gula from the north-western city of Peshawar for forgery of a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) after the police registered a case against three persons of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for allegedly issuing a CNIC to Gula on October 21 following which a search to find her was launched.
Just four days after the registration of the case, the FIA officials conducted an operation in the Noothia neighbourhood of Peshawar and arrested her.
The NAT Geo famed ‘Afghan girl’ was named in the case as one of the thousands of Afghan refugees who managed to dodge Pakistan’s computerised system to get an identity card last year.
The news appeared last year when Pakistani officials confirmed that Sharbat Gula had applied for a Pakistani identity card in April 2014, using the name Sharbat Bibi.
Who is Sharbat Gula?
Well-known photographer Steve McCurry took questionably the most iconic picture of all times in December 1984 at a refugee camp situated on the edge of Peshawar.
The image stared from the magazine cover of National Geographic in June 1985 and remained a mystery for the following 17 years.
For many, her photo has been close to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and so, National Geographic made a documentary on her life called the ‘Mona Lisa of Afghan war’.
McCurry later joined a crew from National Geographic Television & Film to find for her and hoped to see her alive again.
They showed her very photograph across the refugee camp in Pakistan where McCurry had captured her as a schoolgirl. Sharbat Gula was discovered by National Geographic in 2002.
Crackdown against fake CNIC holders
Pakistan launched a crackdown against those who have obtained fake CNICs fraudulently and launched a re-verification campaign across the country.
Officials say NADRA has so far re-verified some 91 million CNICs and detected 60,675 cards by non-nationals fraudulently.
According to a NADRA official, 2,473 foreigners, mostly Afghans, had voluntarily surrendered their CNICs which they obtained fraudulently.
Some 18 officials of the authority were under investigation for issuing CNICs to foreigners and eight were arrested, the official said.
Over 350,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their war-torn homeland from Pakistan this year, UN data shows, with the torrent of people crossing the border expected to continue.
Pakistan has for decades provided a safe haven for millions of Afghans who fled their country after the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Pakistan hosts 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, according to UNHCR figures from earlier this year, making it the third-largest refugee hosting nation in the world. A further one million unregistered refugees are estimated to be in the country.
Since 2009, Islamabad has repeatedly pushed back a deadline for them to return, but fears are growing that the latest cut-off date in March 2017 will be final.