Pak­istan de­ports Na­tional Geo­graphic ‘Afghan girl’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An Afghan woman im­mor­tal­ized on a Na­tional Geo­graphic cover was de­ported by Pak­istani of­fi­cials yes­ter­day to her war-torn home­land fol­low­ing a brief pe­riod of de­ten­tion for us­ing fraud­u­lent iden­tity pa­pers. Shar­bat Gula, whose blaz­ing green eyes were cap­tured in an im­age taken in a Pak­istan refugee camp in the 1980s that be­came the mag­a­zine’s most fa­mous cover, was dis­charged from hospi­tal where she was be­ing treated for Hep­ati­tis C and taken to the bor­der overnight, of­fi­cials said. “We have de­ported Shar­bat Gula to Afghanistan. She crossed the bor­der to Afghanistan at around 2:30am. She was also ac­com­pa­nied by her four chil­dren,” As­mat­ul­lah Wazir, an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial in the bor­der town of Torkham said.

A sec­ond of­fi­cial, re­quest­ing anonymity, con­firmed the move and said Gula, 45, was ac­com­pa­nied by of­fi­cials from the Afghan em­bassy. Speak­ing to AFP last week, Gula said she was “heart­bro­ken” at the prospect of re­turn­ing. “Afghanistan is only my birth­place, but Pak­istan was my home­land and I al­ways con­sid­ered it as my own coun­try,” she said. “I had de­cided to live and die in Pak­istan but they did the worst thing with me. It’s not my fault that I born there (in Afghanistan). I am de­jected. I have no other op­tion but to leave.”

Gula said she first ar­rived in Pak­istan an or­phan, some four or five years af­ter the Soviet in­va­sion of 1979, one of mil­lions of Afghans who have sought refuge over the bor­der since. Since July hun­dreds of thou­sands have re­turned to Afghanistan in a des­per­ate ex­o­dus amid fears of a crack­down, ahead of a March 2017 dead­line for the fi­nal return of all Afghan refugees. Last month UNHCR said more than 350,000 Afghan refugees-doc­u­mented and un­doc­u­ment­ed­had re­turned from Pak­istan so far in 2016, adding it ex­pects a fur­ther 450,000 to do so by the year’s end. —AFP

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