Green-eyed National Geographic 'Afghan girl' arrested amid allegations of forged ID

The green-eyed "Afghan girl" who appeared on an iconic front cover of National Geographic magazine 30 years ago has been arrested amid allegations of having a forged Pakistani identity card.

Sharbat Gula, who is now in her 40s, was accused of having a fake Pakistani identity card, and is being held in jail on the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, her family said.

Gula's brother-in-law Shahshad Khan said Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided her home early on Wednesday morning.

"FIA along with security forces came, entered her house, searched all belongings and took important papers including $2,800," Khan said.

Photographer Steve McCurry stands in front of two portraits of Sharbat Gula - one from her iconic National Geographic front cover and one taken recently. Credit: PA Images

Gula faces 14 years in prison if convicted of fraud.

Gula, who grew up in a refugee agency, became a symbol of Afghanistan's suffering during the 1980s Soviet occupation and US-backed mujahadeen insurgency after her image appeared on the cover of National Geographic.

Steve McCurry, who took the well-known photograph of Gula, said the reported arrest was an "egregious violation of her human rights", and vowed to help her.

Writing on Instagram, he said: "I am committed to doing anything and everything possible to provide legal and financial support for her and her family."

Khan argued that Gula is not a refugee but a legal resident of Pakistan because she is married to his brother Rahmat Khan, who was born in the country and died five years ago leaving her with four children.

"Her children are not sleeping since last night - she is a poor widow," Khan said. "Her children need her and she needs justice."

Officials at the FIA and Pakistan's National Identity Authority were not immediately available for comment.