The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Afghanistan told CNN it would only be able to assist in the case if Gula registers as a refugee.
“Sharbat Gula falls under the ‘undocumented migrants’ umbrella,” said Duniya Khan with the agency’s Pakistan office. “The UNHCR cannot intervene since she is not a registered refugee.”
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which assists undocumented migrants, says the arrest — although legal if the ID card is proven to be false — is symptomatic of the mounting pressure on Afghan refugees in Pakistan to return home.
“It is a sign of the times in Pakistan, that it has now reached someone who was something of a celebrity in the ’80s, someone more high profile than the average,” said Nicholas Bishop, project development officer for the IOM in Afghanistan.
Human Rights Watch said since July 1, Pakistan has repatriated 370,000 Afghans, nearly 220,000 of them registered refugees.
“They are joining more than one million internally displaced Afghans who are struggling to survive in a country still wracked by conflict and crushing poverty,” the group said in a statement.
Millions of Afghans have sought shelter in Pakistan over the years as their country became ravaged by conflict, HRW added.
CNN has reached out to the Pakistani Interior Ministry for comment, but hasn’t heard back.