Islamabad: The famous green-eyed 'Afghan girl' immortalised by the National Geographic magazine on its 1985 cover has been living in Pakistan on fake documents, prompting authorities to launch a probe.
Four officials were suspended today for allegedly issuing fake Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) to Sharbat Gula and her two 'sons'. According to Pakistani officials, Gula applied for a Pakistani identity card in the northwestern city of Peshawar in April 2014, under the name 'Sharbat Bibi'.
US photographer Steve McCurry poses next to his photos of the "Afghan Girl" named Sharbat Gula at the opening of the "Overwhelmed by Life" exhibition of his work at the Museum for Art and Trade in Hamburg, northern Germany on June 27, 2013. Pic/ AFP
The then 12-year-old Gula became famous worldwide after her haunting closeup shot was published by the magazine that was clicked at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar in 1984 by photographer Steve McCurry. That photo has been likened with Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
Authorities say she was one of thousands of Afghan refugees who managed to dodge Pakistan's computerised system and to get an identity card last year. In the picture of the fake CNIC, she is wearing a black 'hijab' that covers her head but one can hardly miss the piercing blue eyes.
The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) removed the officials at its Hayatabad office in Peshawar where the card was issued. According to NADRA sources, the suspended officials include three men and a woman. The department blocked the fake cards and also launched an investigation into the incident.
NADRA's Hayatabad office issued three CNICs on a single day last year to Gula who was shown in the documents to be the wife of one Rehmat Gul. She is also shown to be the mother of two sons - Rauf Khan and Wali Khan. Later, it turned out that all the three were Afghan nationals and faked documents to get the card which only Pakistan nationals are eligible to possess.
It is also suspected that the two men shown as her sons were not actually related to her. Gula had remained anonymous for years after her first photo until she was re-discovered by the National Geographic in 2002.
And after her family granted her the permission to meet with the man who photographed her 17 years ago, McCurry knew immediately that he had found her again. "Her eyes are as haunting now as they were then," he had said. According to officials, she has apparently gone into hiding after the issue of her fake card surfaced.