PESHAWAR: In an anticipated move, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday arrested Sharbat Gula – the NAT Geo famed ‘Afghan girl’ – from the city for forgery of a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC).
Police had 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 the north-western city of Peshawar and arrested her.
The NAT Geo famed ‘Afghan girl’ was named in a 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.
Later a senior official in NADRA’s Peshawar office also had confirmed that magazine girl and her two sons, Rauf Khan and Wali Khan, were issued cards on the same day.
Reportedly, Deputy assistant NADRA Peshawar and two other officials issued Pakistani identity cards to the Afghan family, who were later suspended from their posts.
Meanwhile, the FIA officials were confident that the NADRA officials, who have been on a run, would be arrested soon.
Sharbat Gula rose to fame when Steve McCurry, a famous photographer, took the most iconic picture of all times in December 1984 at a refugee camp 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.
McCurry later joined a crew from National Geographic Television & Film to find for her and hoped to see her alive again. She was later 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.