The green-eyed Afghan woman immortalised by a 1985 cover of National Geographic magazine is set to be deported to Afghanistan after she pleaded guilty on Friday to fraudulently obtaining Pakistani identity documents.
A court in the northwestern city of Peshawar ordered that Sharbat Gula, 46, should be deported after her detention expires, a prosecutor said. She was arrested 10 days ago on charges of having forged ID papers and staying in Pakistan illegally.
Sharbat Gula’s case drew international attention and criticism of Pakistani authorities.
Judge Farah Jamsheed handed down the punishment after Sharbat Gula, wearing a burqa, was brought to the court and pleaded guilty to the charges against her. Prosecutor Mohsin Dawar said she faces deportation after five days, when her 15-day jail term will end. The court also fined her Rs 110,000 rupees (about $1,100).
Earlier, Sharbat Gula denied the charges against her. On Wednesday, Sharbat Gula was refused bail by a court in Peshawar, prompting Afghan ambassador Omar Zakhilwal to urge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to intervene in her case.
In a message on his official Facebook page on Friday, Zakhilwal said Sharbat Gula was “free” of her legal problems and would soon be sent home to Afghanistan.
“With utmost delight, I announce that Sharbat Gula is now free from the legal troubles she endured over the past couple of weeks. She soon will also be free from an uncertain life of a refugee as she will be on her way back to her own country as soon as next Monday where she still is a beloved image and a national icon,” he said.
President Ashraf Ghani will meet Sharbat Gula when she returns “to welcome her back home and help her with her resettlement”, he added.
After Sharbat Gula was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), her lawyer asked the Peshawar high court to free her as she has Hepatitis C. Zakhilwal earlier said her arrest had “hurt the feelings of all Afghans”.
In 1984, National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry took the haunting image of Sharbat Gula, then aged about 12, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the edge of Peshawar. The photo, which became the most famous cover image in the magazine’s history, was likened to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
After a 17-year search, McCurry tracked Sharbat Gula in 2002 to a remote Afghan village, where she was married to a baker and the mother of three daughters. National Geographic also made a documentary about her life that dubbed her the “Mona Lisa of the Afghan war”.
Afghans say Sharbat Gula belonged to eastern Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan. She lost her parents at the age of six in an attack by fighter jets during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
She later migrated to Pakistan with her brother, three sisters and grandmother and married Rehmat Gul, a baker living near Peshawar, in 1990. The couple had three daughters.