By: ALI HUSSAIN
Pakistan has assured release of Sharbat Gula, the National Geographic famed Afghan girl who was recently arrested by authorities in Peshawar for alleged forgery of a Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC), said Dr Omar Zakhilwal, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan.
The Afghan envoy stated in a Facebook post that the assurance was given to him by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz during his telephonic conversation and a formal letter sent to him regarding issue of Sharbat Gula’s arrest. He said that he conveyed to the Adviser that the arrest of Gula, one of the world’s most recognized and famous and Afghanistan’s most beloved image has deeply saddened all Afghans without exception and has hurt their emotions.
“This certainly has not been in line, but in fact in complete contradiction, with efforts of Pakistan’s government to ‘win hearts and minds’ in Afghanistan”, he said. He said that the offense with which Gula was charged was also clarified as unlike claimed by the police, the Pakistani ID card she was holding was not fake and neither was it obtained fraudulently.
“There are around more than 500,000 Afghan refugees to whom NADRA has issued Pakistan national IDs as per its process of which the Ministry of Interior is very well aware,” he said, adding the Afghans have used these cards for owning properties and businesses in Pakistan worth an estimated $10b. This indeed is one important item of our discussion with Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) as the repatriation of Afghan refugees is gaining momentum and over 500,000 refugees returned home in the past three and a half months alone, and with about 150,000 refugees continuing to return per month, there will be few, if any, Afghan refugees left in Pakistan a year from now.
Moreover, he added that a few months ago Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhri Nisar Ali Khan himself announced a deadline of November 15, 2016 for Afghan refugees holding Pakistan ID cards to return them without facing any charges. That deadline is more than two weeks away, he added.
“In light of the implications Sharbat Gula’s arrest as well as release can have for Pak-Afghan people to people relations and also the legal weaknesses with the case on which she is charged, I requested Sartaj Aziz that the Pakistan federal government issues a directive to release Gula immediately. Sartaj Aziz gave me his assurances for which I am grateful,” the Afghan envoy added. Gula was recently arrested from her Peshawar residence by FIA for alleged forgery of a CNIC and if convicted she may face 14 years in prison and fine up to $5,000.