Na­tional Ge­o­graphic ‘Afghan girl’ ar­rested

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

An Afghan woman im­mor­tal­ized on a cel­e­brated Na­tional Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zine cover as a green-eyed 12 -yearold 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 in the 1980s, be­came the most fa­mous cover im­age in the mag­a­zine’s his­tory. Her ar­rest high­lights the des­per­ate mea­sures many Afghans are will­ing to take to avoid re­turn­ing to their war-torn home­land as Pak­istan cracks down on un­doc­u­mented for­eign­ers.

Pak­istan’s Fed­eral In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (FIA) ar­rested Gula for fraud fol­low­ing a two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion on her and her hus­band, who has ab­sconded. In­ves­ti­ga­tors, who have un­cov­ered thou­sands of fraud cases over the last decade, launched a probe into her ap­pli­ca­tion shortly after she pro­cured the card. “FIA ar­rested Shar­bat Gula, an Afghan woman, for ob­tain­ing a fake ID card,” Shahid Ilyas, an FIA of­fi­cial, told AFP.

Ilyas said the au­thor­i­ties were also seek­ing three Na­tional Data­base Reg­is­tra­tion Author­ity (NADRA) of­fi­cials found re­spon­si­ble for is­su­ing Pak­istan’s na­tional iden­tity card to Gula, who have been at large since the fraud was un­cov­ered. He said that Gula faces seven to 14 years in prison and a fine of $3,000-$5,000 if con­victed. In re­al­ity she is un­likely to serve such a harsh sen­tence many Afghans who have been con­victed in sim­i­lar cases have been de­ported be­fore they could be sent to prison.

Of­fi­cials say Gula ap­plied for a Pak­istani iden­tity card in Peshawar in April 2014, us­ing the name Shar­bat Bibi. Thou­sands of Afghan refugees have man­aged to dodge Pak­istan’s com­put­erised sys­tem to get an iden­tity card. The photo at­tached to her ap­pli­ca­tion fea­tured the same pierc­ing green eyes seen in McCurry’s fa­mous im­age, only older. The orig­i­nal pho­to­graph was taken in 1984 in a refugee camp in north­west Pak­istan dur­ing 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. — AFP

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