A Pakistani court today rejected the bail plea of an Afghan woman who was immortalised on the cover of National Geographic magazine in the 1980s and arrested last week on fraud charges.
Sharbat Gula, National Geographic magazine's famed 'Afghan Girl', has been in the custody of the Federal Investigation Agency since October 26 for having obtained fake identity papers.
The special court in Peashawar had reserved its verdict a day earlier and today rejected her bail application. She faces up to 14 years in jail.
Meanwhile, expressing ‘utmost disappointment’ at the rejection of bail, the Afghan envoy to Pakistan has called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to intervene in the case for her release.
“It is with utmost disappointment that despite assurances given by the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other government leaders the bail to free Sharbat Gula from incarceration in Peshawar was rejected today," Omer Zakhilwal said here.
He said the arrest of Gula, known for "one of the world’s most recognised and Afghanistan’s most beloved image", had already hurt feelings of all Afghans, and today’s ruling was a further disregard to those feelings and the bilateral people-to-people relations and the “winning of hearts and minds” that the two countries claim to be important.
Gula's arrest highlighted the plight of millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Pakistan has for decades provided safe haven for millions of Afghans who fled their country after the Soviet invasion of 1979. It hosts more than 1 million registered Afghan refugees, according to UNHCR.
The agency also estimates a further one million unregistered refugees are in the country.
Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on October 30 had indicated that Gula may be may soon be freed on humanitarian grounds.
The haunting photo of a green-eyed, Afghan girl named Sharbat Gula, taken in a refugee camp in Pakistan in 1984, was one of National Geographic magazine's most famous covers.
With PTI Inputs