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Afghan ‘Mona Lisa’ returns home

President Ghani gives apartment to Sharbat Gula; Karzai commends Zakhilwal and his team for tireless efforts to facilitate famed ‘Afghan Girl’

By Shamim Shahid and Farhad Naibkhel- PESHAWAR/KABUL: After 15 days of imprisonment in Pakistan, the Afghan woman known worldwide for her iconic portrait on the cover of National Geographic magazine has returned to her homeland on Wednesday.

Afghan celebrity Sharbat Gula in according to a special court decision was deported to Afghanistan and handed over in presence of two diplomats to Afghan officials at Torkham in early hours of Wednesday.

Peshawar based Afghan Consul General Dr Abdullah Waheed Poyan told Afghanistan Times, “Yes, Sharbat Gula now reached to Kabul after her handing over to Afghan officials at Torkham.” Pakistani officials at Torkham confirmed that she was handed over to Afghan officials at Torkham at around 2:45 am.

However, Dr Waheed Poyan did not answer when asked whether Sharbat Gula was deported by Pakistani authorities at mid night. Usually deportation of Afghans at Torkham and Chaman crossing-points takes place after evening. Consul General has however, thanked Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for keeping Sharbat Gula in hospital and helping her deportation to Afghanistan.

Deputy Information Secretary of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Shaukat Yousafzai, told Afghanistan Times that Sharbat Gula’s sentence was completed at mid night and also on security grounds, the government and Afghan diplomats agreed on her transportation and handing over to Afghan government at Torkham in early hours. He recalled that even in according to directives of Imran Khan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government offered protection and treatment to Sharbat Gula but she preferred her deportation to Afghanistan. Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, on his Facebook page wrote that the worldwide most “impeccable face and the lovely Afghan village girl” Sharbat Gula, along with her children, has arrived to her homeland, Afghanistan.

The ambassador said that Sharbat Gula entered into Afghanistan through the Torkham crossing-point, where residents and officials organized a welcome program for her.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmad Shekib Mustaghni, said that Sharbat Gula, also known as Afghan ‘Mona Lisa’, was handed over to Afghan officials last night.

He confirmed that first Sharbat Gula was transported from Peshawar through the historical Khyber Pass to eastern Nangarhar province and later she was shifted to Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani and First Lady on Wednesday met with Ms Gula and her family members in the Presidential Palace. President Ghani gave her keys to a new apartment in Kabul. The president termed Sharbat Gula a portrait of Afghanistan’s pain, oppression and aspirations.

 

“In the years of wars and refuge, Sharbat Gula showed the picture of refugees and war-hit country to the world. Currently, we are incomplete because most of Afghans are refugees. The government is committed and has initiated several steps to bring back the refugees home,” President Ghani said.

The president assured the National Geographic’s famed ‘Afghan Girl’ of proper education and healthcare facilities to her children and her.

The Afghan Mona Lisa and her family thanked the people and government of Afghanistan for the support provided to her in the troubled times.

Former President Hamid Karzai also met with Sharbat Gula and her family in his office today.

Welcoming the famed green-eyed ‘Afghan Girl’, the ex-president expressed pleasure over return of Sharbat Gula and her family to Afghanistan. Karzai said that all Afghan refugees should return to their homeland.

He thanked President Ghani for giving an apartment to the famed ‘Afghan Girl’.

Karzai also commended the Afghan ambassador Omar Zakhilwal and his team for tireless efforts to secure release of Sharbat Gula and repatriate her with dignity.

Sharbat Gula was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan on October 26, 2016 and sentenced by a court of law on November 2nd. Fine amount Pakistani rupees 110,000 was deposited on the same day (November 2) whereas 15 days sentence was completed on Wednesday morning.

According to reports Sharbat Gula was announced guilty by a special court in Peshawar for using an unauthorized Pakistani citizenship card. The FIA alleged Gula of acquiring Pakistani citizenship through fraudulent ways.

Shortly after the reports of Sharbat Gula’s arrest, the Afghan government has put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to release the famed ‘Afghan Girl’ on humanitarian grounds, given her ill health and her status as an international symbol of refugees. As Sharbat Gula suffered from hepatitis C, she was transferred from Central Jail Peshawar to the Lady Reading Hospital for treatment. After frequent requests of the government of Afghanistan, she was deported.

After the arrest of Sharbat Gula in Pakistan, the Afghan government made decision to bring her back to Afghanistan with dignity.

Sharbat Gula is the mother of four children, who suffers from hepatitis C. Her husband Rahmat Gul, a baker, died of hepatitis about four years ago.

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