Peshawar, Nov 6 : Authorities in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have temporarily halted the deportation of Sharbat Gula, National Geographic’s iconic green-eyed ‘Afghan Girl’, for using fake ID cards to stay here and will request the federal government to grant her refugee status. Gula, who was immortalised after her haunting picture taken at a refugee camp in Pakistan in 1985 was carried by the magazine on its cover and became a symbol of her country’s wars, was arrested on October 26 from her home here. A special anti-corruption and immigration court in Peshawar ordered Gula’s deportation to Afghanistan on Friday after serving a 15-day jail sentence besides slapping a fine of 1,10,000 rupees (USD 1,100). Gula will complete her sentence on Wednesday.

The spokesperson for the provincial government Mushtaq Ghani told The Express Tribune that directives not to deport Gula for the time being had been forwarded to the Home and Tribal Affairs Department, adding that the case needed to be taken up at the federal level. “We will request the federal government to grant her refugee status,” he said, adding that the move would create a better image of the province. “This is not against the verdict,” said a source. “This just temporarily halts the process on humanitarian grounds.” Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had indicated that Gula may be released on humanitarian grounds.

However, officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said that the court orders would have to be carried out in letter and spirit. Another official said that the special court’s decision could only be challenged in the Supreme Court. However, he said, because Gula admitted to the crime, any appeal would only lengthen her stay in jail. Gula, who was dubbed as ‘Mona Lisa of Afghan war’, was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for alleged forgery of a Pakistani Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC).

She gained worldwide recognition when her image was featured on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic Magazine at a time when she was approximately 12 years old. According to interim charge sheet submitted on November 1, the prosecutor said that she accepted the main charge of faking her identity to get the CNIC. Gula said that her late husband, Rehmat Gul, had earlier made a manual national identity card in 1988, which was used to get the CNIC with the help of an agent who was bribed. Pakistan has been tackling the Afghan refugee crisis for over three decades. It is estimated that some three million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan, half of whom are unregistered.