This is the first time a minority from the tribal areas has been granted citizenship of the country.
Pakistan has awarded a Christian man from the Khyber Agency citizenship in a first for a non-Muslim, officials and his family said Saturday.
Sheharyar Masih, a resident of the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan, had applied for citizenship after turning 18. “Sheharyar has officially been awarded citizenship and he now enjoys all rights that citizens of tribal regions enjoy,” said senior local official Nasir Khan.
Sheharyar’s father Arshad Masih said he hoped the decision would encourage the roughly 50,000 people from religious minorities in the region to apply for citizenship. Most of those people are Sikh followed by Christian and Hindu, he said.
“My son will now have an opportunity to apply for government jobs or to start his own business,” Arshad said, adding that minorities without domicile status did not enjoy equal rights.
His son’s was the first case under the recently announced policy, Arshad said. “All non-Muslims in [the tribal regions] can apply for citizenship and I may also do the same,” he added. Like other minorities, Sheharyar was previously living in Khyber on a “residential certificate.”
Christians make up around 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s overwhelmingly Muslim population, with large settlements across major cities and around 60,000 in the capital, Islamabad.