Na­tional Ge­o­graphic ‘Afghan girl’ ar­rested in Pak­istan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An Afghan woman im­mor­tal­ized on a cel­e­brated Na­tional Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zine cover as a green-eyed 12-year-old girl was ar­rested yes­ter­day for liv­ing in Pak­istan on fraud­u­lent iden­tity pa­pers. The haunt­ing im­age of Shar­bat Gula, taken in a Pak­istan refugee camp by pho­tog­ra­pher Steve McCurry, be­came the most fa­mous cover im­age in the mag­a­zine’s his­tory. She now faces up to 14 years in jail, a Pak­istani of­fi­cial warned. Gula was ar­rested by Pak­istan’s Fed­eral In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (FIA) for fraud fol­low­ing a two-year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the north­west­ern Pak­istani city of Peshawar, the cap­i­tal of restive Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa prov­ince bor­der­ing Afghanistan.

“FIA ar­rested Shar­bat Gula, an Afghan woman, to­day for ob­tain­ing a fake ID card,” Shahid Ilyas, an of­fi­cial of the Na­tional Data­base Reg­is­tra­tion Author­ity (NADRA) said. Ilyas said that FIA is also seek­ing three NADRA of­fi­cials who were found re­spon­si­ble for is­su­ing Pak­istan’s na­tional iden­tity card to Gula, who have been at large since the fraud was de­tected. He said that Gula faces seven to 14 years prison time and fine be­tween $3,000 to $5,000 if con­victed by court over fraud. Pak­istani of­fi­cials say that Gula ap­plied for a Pak­istani iden­tity card in Peshawar in April 2014, us­ing the name Shar­bat Bibi.

She was one of thou­sands of Afghan refugees who man­aged to dodge Pak­istan’s com­put­er­ized sys­tem and to get an iden­tity card. The orig­i­nal im­age of Gula was taken in 1984 in a refugee camp in north­west Pak­istan at the time of the Soviet oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan. McCurry later tracked her down, after a 17-year search, to a re­mote Afghan vil­lage in 2002 where she was mar­ried to a baker and the mother of three daugh­ters. Pak­istan has launched a crack­down against those who have ob­tained fake ID cards fraud­u­lently and launched a rever­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign across the coun­try.

Of­fi­cials say NADRA has so far rever­i­fied 91 mil­lion ID cards and de­tected 60,675 cards by non na­tion­als fraud­u­lently. A NADRA of­fi­cial said that 2,473 for­eign­ers, mostly Afghans, had vol­un­tar­ily sur­ren­dered their ID cards which they ob­tained fraud­u­lently. Some 18 of­fi­cials of the author­ity were un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for is­su­ing ID cards to for­eign­ers and eight were ar­rested, the of­fi­cial said. More than 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 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 cut­off date in March 2017 will be fi­nal. — AFP

GHOR: Afghan men gather around the bod­ies of civil­ians, in­clud­ing chil­dren who were killed by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in Ghor prov­ince yes­ter­day. — AFP

PESHAWAR: Afghan Shar­bat Gula, the ‘Afghan Girl’ who ap­peared on the cover of a 1985 edi­tion of Na­tional Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zine, waits ahead of a court hear­ing in Peshawar. — AFP

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