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National Geographic’s ‘Afghan Girl’ arrested over fraud documents by Pakistan

The green-eyed girl who had adorned the National Geographic magazine cover once was arrested in Pakistan on Tuesday for living in the country with fraudulent identity papers, reports AFP.

Gula had applied for the passport with the name Sharbat Bibi and managed to bypass Pakistan’s computerised system to get an ID card, added the report. She had also obtained fake identity cards for her two children.

Gula faces 14 years in prison and a fine between $3,000 to $5,000. Confirming her arrest, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) authorities said Sharbat, now in her 40s, was arrested from the Nothia area for illegally possessing a Pakistani ID card. The FIA authorities are also conducting raids to arrest her husband and two children.

Dubbed as ‘Mona Lisa of Afghan war’, Sharbat catapulted into global prominence after National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry captured her iconic photograph when she was a 12-year-old girl at the Nisar Bagh refugee camp on the edge of Peshawar in 1984. Gula had become the face of war-torn Afghanistan at that time.

NADRA is cracking down on several of those who have fake IDs. It has started a re-verification drive in the country. Pakistan has been tackling the Afghan refugee crisis for over three decades; the UNHCR has termed it as the “largest protracted refugee situation globally.” According to UNHCR figures, Pakistan is home to some 3 million Afghan refugees, half of whom are unregistered, making it the third-largest refugee hosting nation in the world.

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