Kabul envoy calls on Sharif to free ‘Afghan girl’

Islamabad, Nov 2 (IANS) Expressing disappointment at the rejection of bail to Nat Geo’s famed “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula, the Afghanistan ambassador to Pakistan on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to intervene in the case for her release, the media reported.

“It is with utmost disappointment that despite assurances given by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other government leaders, the bail to free Sharbat Gula from incarceration in Peshawar was rejected today,” Dawn quoted Ambassador Omer Zakhilwal as saying.

He said the arrest of Gula, known for “one of the world’s most recognised and Afghanistan’s most beloved image”, had already hurt feelings of all Afghans, and Wednesday’s ruling was a further disregard to those feelings and the bilateral people-to-people relations and the “winning of hearts and minds” that the two countries claim to be important.

“At this stage I call on the honourable Prime Minister of Pakistan, to whom I will also send a formal request, to intervene in this case himself to instruct the release of Sharbat Gula,” the envoy said.

He said the Afghan woman was arrested on charges laid against her by a federal agency, hence the government has the authority to withdraw those charges and set her free because “it would certainly be the right thing to do”.

He said despite being famous across the world, Gula is a poor widow and the sole breadwinner of her family, comprising four children. She is suffering from hepatitis, which also claimed the lives of her husband and eldest daughter in the recent past, he said.

The envoy said the Afghan government is ready to facilitate Gula as well as her children’s repatriation back to Afghanistan “with dignity”, and support her in resettling there.

Known as the “Afghan Girl”, the green-eyed Gula famously featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine and became a symbol of uncertain future of her country’s war-ravaged people when photographed as a young, teenaged girl.

Years later, the Nat Geo photographer who shot her as a girl tracked Gula down in Pakistan refugee camps. An unnamed celebrity for years, her striking eyes peered out from under a headscarf with a mixture of suffering and pain, and now detrmination.

–IANS

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