An Afghan woman, who became famous after her picture featured on the cover of National Geographic Magazine, was arrested Wednesday for staying in Pakistan on fraudulent identity papers. Sharbat Gula, now in her 40s, was taken into custody by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) following a two-year-long investigation in the northwestern city of Peshawar, the capital of restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.
Gula was photographed at the age of 12 by Steve McCurry at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp situated on the edge of Peshawar in 1984. She gained worldwide recognition when her photo featured on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic Magazine. A short documentary about her life was also made by National Geographic, which dubbed her the "Mona Lisa of Afghan war."
"FIA arrested Sharbat Gula, an Afghan woman, today for obtaining a fake ID card," Shahid Ilyas, an official of the National Database Registration Authority, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). A search is underway for three NADRA officials who issued Pakistan's national identity card to Gula, Ilyas said.
If convicted, Gula could face up to 14 years' prison time and be fined between $3,000 to $5,000.
According to Pakistani officials, Gula applied for a Pakistani identity card in Peshawar in April 2014, using the name Sharbat Bibi. The arrest comes as Pakistan launched a crackdown against those with fake ID cards. Officials said that NADRA has so far reverified 91 million ID cards and found 60,675 cards obtained by non nationals fraudulently.
Gula remained anonymous for years after her picture made the cover of National Geographic. She was later traced to a remote Afghan village in 2002 where she was married to a baker and lived along with their three children, AFP reported.