‘Abandoned’ Sharbat Gula Threatens To Return To Pakistan


By Tahir Khan

Sharbat Gula – the green-eyed Afghan woman, who had received world fame due to her 1985 photo on a National Geography magazine cover, feels the country’s leadership has not honoured commitments with her and that she could return to Pakistan, where she had spent years as refugee.

As her arrest was unfortunately politicized in view of the nature of Pak-Afghan relationship, President Ghani had handed over a key of a residential flat to Gula, also described as the ‘Afghan Mona Lisa’, when she returned to Afghanistan in November. It was, however, later confirmed that the flat was rented for her. Now her brother complains that rent of the flat has not been paid for four months and the owner is asking for the rent.

“This house has been rented for a year. The property dealer and the house owner knock at our door daily and ask for the unpaid rent. The rent for the last four months remained unpaid,” Niamat Gul, a brother of Sharbat Gula told Pajhwok news agency on Tuesday.

He; however, said the government had paid the rent of first six months of Gula’s house and unpaid of the past four months.

Gula, 47, was arrested in October 2016 in Peshawar by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for living in Pakistan on forged identity papers.

Her arrest had widely been condemned in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A special anti-corruption and immigration court had sentenced her to 15 days imprisonment with a fine of Rs110,000. She had returned to Afghanistan after her release.

Afghan media and rights activists say that President Ghani has not yet fulfilled his promise to give her a house and that the gov’t has failed to pay rent of her house.

“They (govt) cannot accommodate only one Sharbat Gula, who had showed loyalty to her homeland. She neither preferred the West nor the East but own country and people,” Najm Shinwari, an Afghan journalist said on his Facebook amid a debate on the social media.

“The president had promised to give her a house. The president also promised to meet her expenses. But there is nothing today and Sharbat Gula is complaining,” he said.

It was in fact the social media which highlighted the problems of Gula, who was almost forgotten by the government officials. Criticism in the social media forced a presidential palace official to issue a statement that President Ghani has issued instructions to fulfill all his promises.

As criticism at the president started a government official also used his official Facebook to come heavily on own government.

Communication and Information Ministry spokesman Najeeb Nangyal said the government has not implemented a single commitment with Gula in one year. He said Gula’s children were removed from schools few times because they could not pay monthly fee.

An Afghan website Nunn.Asia reported that Gula may go back to Pakistan because of her mistreatment by the government.

A well-known Afghan analyst Dr Faiz Mohammad Zaland also said that Gula has threatened to cross the border to Pakistan if the gov’t did not honour promises with her.

As some Afghan officials tried to politicize Gula’s arrest in Pakistan, PTI gov’t in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa had announced she will not be deported if she decides to live in Pakistan. A Pakistani property tycoon had reportedly offered Gula a house of her choice if she wants to live in Pakistan.

She migrated to Pakistan with her family during civil war in Afghanistan in 1984 and settled in Nasir Bagh refugees’ camp in the outskirts of Peshawar. In a series of interviews she had praised the people of Pakistan for hospitality to Afghans but she was disappointed at her arrest.

In an interview with the AFP news agency in November last year, Gula had stated she was “heartbroken” at the prospect of returning.

“Afghanistan is only my birthplace, but Pakistan was my homeland and I always considered it as my own country,” she was quoted as saying.

“I had decided to live and die in Pakistan but they did the worst thing with me. It’s not my fault that I born there [in Afghanistan]. I am dejected. I have no other option but to leave,” Gula had stated, according to AFP.

The article originally appeared in Daily Times on September 27, 2017. Original link.


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