Famous National Geographic Afghan Girl Refused Release By Pakistani Court
A Pakistani court refused bail to an Afghan woman Sharbhat Gula who became world famous for her portrait on National Geographic cover 35 years ago. She was arrested recently in Pakistan for using fake identity cards.
In 2014, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had issued three ID cards to Sharbat Bibi and two men who claimed to be her sons. But the officials who issued her the cards did not follow the rules and protocol of the NADRA. The documents Sharbat Bibi had presented were fake, and she went into hiding soon after the Federal Investigation Agency found out about it.
Photographer Steve McCurry had captured Sharbat’s image at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when she was 12 years old. Her haunting portrait went on to become one of the most iconic photographs from the National Geographic.
“This portrait summed up for me the trauma and plight, and the whole situation of suddenly having to flee your home and end up in refugee camp, hundreds of miles away,” McCurry said in an interview with The National Geographic magazine. Shortly after the photograph was taken, McCurry lost track of the girl. He found her again in 2002, after searching for her for 17 years. She was living in a remote Afghan village, and was married with three children. “Her eyes are as haunting now as they were then,” he had said.
She now faces up to 14 years in jail, if convicted. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency is also looking for the three NADRA officials who were responsible for issuing her the fake documents.
She was one of thousands of Afghan refugees who managed to dodge Pakistan’s computerised system to get an identity card last year, officials said.