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Foreign affairs

Refugee from iconic National Geographic cover sparks debate over fake IDs in Pakistan

The Afghan refugee who became famous after her photograph was put on the cover of National Geographic is getting attention again for another picture taken 30 years later.

Sharbat Gula was photographed in 1984 at the Pakistani refugee camp she lived in, and she continues to reside in Pakistan. She grabbed headlines on Tuesday when national media published her computerized national identity card (CNIC), a document that she should not have as a refugee. CNICs allow Afghans to purchase property and open bank accounts, and usually can be procured through bribes, The Guardian reports. A spokesman for the National Database and Registration Authority said that Gula’s card was discovered and banned in August, and four officials have been suspended for their involvement. He also said the authority has found 22,000 other illegal cards.

Millions of Afghans have crossed into Pakistan since the Soviets invaded in 1979, and more than 2.5 million are thought to still be in the country. As evidenced by the anger over Gula having a CNIC, many Pakistanis are ready for them to return to Afghanistan. "We need them to leave Pakistan because we are badly suffering," Hamid-ul-Huq, who represents Peshawar, told The Guardian. "All our streets, mosques, schools are overloaded because of them. It is time for them to leave Pakistan honorably." Human Rights Watch asked the government this week to stop pressuring refugees to leave the country, and a former commissioner for Afghan refugees said that Afghanistan could not handle such a large influx of refugees coming back all at once.