Islamabad, Nov 6| A Pakistani provincial government may urge the federal government not to extradite NatGeo’s famed “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula, and instead award her the status of a refugee in the country, the media reported.
Official sources told Dawn that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government would soon approach the Interior Ministry to stop Gula’s deportation to Afghanistan.
The Nat Geo’s famed cover girl was sentenced to 15 days’ imprisonment and fined Pakistani Rs 110,000 by a court in Peshawar, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial capital city, for acquiring Pakistani Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) through impersonation.
The case took a fresh turn on Saturday after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan urged Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak not to deport Sharbat Gula. The PTI is the ruling party in the province.
An official from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government said it would make a request to the federal government to let Gula stay in the country on humanitarian grounds as she is a widow supporting four children and suffering from Hepatitis C.
The Afghan woman known worldwide for her iconic portrait on the cover of National Geographic was arrested by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency on October 26 from her house in the Nauthia area for “forgery” of a Computerised National Identity Card.
A day after her arrest, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees distanced itself from her, claiming that she was not a registered refugee.
The portrait of Sharbat Gula, whose piercing, sea-green eyes, made her an international symbol of refugees, first appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. Photographer Steve McCurry photographed her as a young girl living in the largest refugee camp in Pakistan, where almost three million Afghans sought shelter in the wake of the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union. In 2002, McCurry tracked Sharbat Gula down and photographed her again.
That photo has been likened with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
National Geographic also made a short documentary about her life and dubbed her the “Mona Lisa of Afghan war”.