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National Geographic’s Famed green-eyed ‘Afghan Girl’ Sharbat Gulla Still in Pakistan Custody

On Friday, Pakistani prosecutors said that Gulla was brought before a Peshawar court for the first time where she pleaded not guilty

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Pakistan Custody
Pakistan's Inam Khan, owner of a book shop shows a copy of a magazine with the photograph of Afghan refugee woman Sharbat Gulla, from his rare collection in Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 26, 2016. VOA
  • Diplomatic and legal efforts are underway in Pakistan to secure an early release of 46-year-old Sharbat Gulla from the Pakistan custody
  • People caught with possessing illegal Pakistani nationality cards could face up to 14 years in prison and a financial penalty of up to $5,000 if convicted
  • Gulla resurfaced in Pakistan in 2014 but went into hiding to avoid arrest after local authorities accused her of buying a fake Pakistani identity card

October 28, 2016: Diplomatic and legal efforts are underway in Pakistan to secure an early release from police custody of a green-eyed Afghan woman whose photograph as a young refugee was published on the cover of National Geographic in 1985.

Police arrested 46-year old Sharbat Gulla this past Wednesday at her residence in the city of Peshawar on charges of fraudulently obtaining Pakistani national identity cards for her herself and her two sons.

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On Friday, Pakistani prosecutors said that Gulla was brought before a Peshawar court for the first time where she pleaded not guilty. But the court remanded her in judicial custody for further interrogation.

People caught with possessing illegal Pakistani nationality cards could face up to 14 years in prison and a financial penalty of up to $5,000 if convicted.

Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal, told VOA their legal team is in contact with relevant authorities and “we expect Sharbat Gulla to be released” when the court reconvenes on Tuesday (November 1).”

Rights activists outraged

Gulla’s arrest has outraged human rights and civil society activists in Pakistan while authorities in Afghanistan criticized it as part of an alleged ongoing harassment campaign trying to force Afghan refugees to leave the country.

Pakistani officials maintain that a nationwide crackdown on Afghan refugees with illegal national identity cards has led them to Gulla and other Afghans holding the documents. They say Pakistani officers involved in facilitating the Afghans get the cards have also been detained.

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Ambassador Zakhilwal says he spoke to Pakistani foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, on Friday to convey Kabul’s concerns and was able to receive assurances to get Gulla released as quickly as possible.

The Afghan envoy lamented that the arrest of “one of the world’s most recognized and famous and Afghanistan’s most beloved image has deeply saddened all Afghans without exception and has hurt their emotions.”

Gulla’s image published on the cover of National Geographic magazine 30 years ago won her international fame and symbolized the troubles facing Afghanistan under the occupation of invading Soviet forces at the time.

Steve McCurry, the war photographer who captured the image of his ‘Afghan Girl’ with piercing green eyes, found her in Afghanistan in 2002.

Hiding to avoid arrest

Gulla resurfaced in Pakistan in 2014 but went into hiding to avoid arrest after local authorities accused her of buying a fake Pakistani identity card.

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Top authorities, however, admit that with the help of “corrupt” officials working in the National Database and Registration Authority, tens of thousands of Afghans have obtained Pakistani nationality cards.

The crackdown on Afghans with illegal cards and officials involved in facilitating the process has intensified since May when fugitive chief of Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was killed in a U.S. drone strike while he was travelling through Pakistan’s border province of Baluchistan with forged Pakistani travel documents. (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google comes up with a new feature

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?