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National Geographic's Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Hospitalized Under Police Custody


Inam Khan, owner of a book store, shows a copy of a National Geographic magazine featuring a photo of Afghan refugee Sharbat Gulla, now 46 and in police custody in Pakistan, from his collection in Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 26, 2016.

Inam Khan, owner of a book store, shows a copy of a National Geographic magazine featuring a photo of Afghan refugee Sharbat Gulla, now 46 and in police custody in Pakistan, from his collection in Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 26, 2016.

The National Geographic's iconic "Afghan Girl", Sharbat Gulla, has been hospitalized for unspecified medical treatment as she remains in police custody in Pakistan, officials said Thursday.

Police arrested Gulla, 46, last week at her residence in the city of Peshawar on charges of fraudulently obtaining Pakistani national identity cards for her herself and her two sons.

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, but the Pakistani government defended their decision and maintains she broke the law.

"Ms. Gula has been receiving adequate hospital treatment," Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Thursday. "Let me reiterate that there has been no cruel action taken against her. The rightful legal course has been pursued in this case, and you will see the outcome shortly."

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.

Ayaz Gul contributed to this story from Islamabad.

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