NatGeo’s ‘Mona Lisa of Afghan war’ to be deported from Pakistan

Islamabad, Nov 4 (IANS) Famed “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula is to be deported to Afghanistan after serving a 15-day imprisonment and paying a fine of Pakistani Rs 110,000, a special anti-corruption and immigration court ordered on Friday.

Gula, known as the “Mona Lisa” of Afghanistan, has already served 11 days in prison and will be freed on Monday, her lawyer told media. The 46-year-old was arrested last month for fraudulently acquiring a Pakistani ID card, an allegation she has strongly denied.

A special court ordered Sharbat Gula, who featured on NatGeo’s famed green-eyed “Afghan Girl” cover, to leave Pakistan by Monday, November 7.

Following the court’s verdict, Afghan ambassador Omar Zakhilwal said, “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… where she still is a beloved image and a national icon.”

Sharbat Bibi became famously known as the “Afghan Girl” when National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry captured her photograph at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp situated on the edge of Peshawar in 1984 and identified her as Sharbat Gula.

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.

That photo has been likened with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

National Geographic also made a short documentary about her life and dubbed her the “Mona Lisa of Afghan war”.

She remained anonymous for years after her first photo made her an icon around the world and until she was discovered by National Geographic in 2002.

After Sharbat’s family granted her permission to meet with the man who photographed her 17 years ago, McCurry knew immediately, even after so many years, that he had found her again.

“Her eyes are as haunting now as they were then,” he had said.