Australian government amends law to fast-track Fawad Ahmed’s Ashes hopes

Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed can play for Australia in the Ashes as changes are being made in the Australian citizenship law © Getty Images

Canberra: May 30, 2013

The Australian government is trying all it can to quicken the legislation that could allow Pakistani leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed to play in the upcoming Ashes series against England, beginning in July.
 
Ahmed has become a permanent resident of Australia after fleeing Pakistan back in 2010 seeking asylum. But he still needs to be a citizen of the country to become eligible for selection for the national team.
 
The 31-year-old, though, has not lived in Australia for the required four-year minimum period, which is necessary to be granted citizenship. But Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor introduced an amendment to the citizenship law on Thursday, reports Associated Press.
 
This would give O’Connor discretion to grant citizenship to residents who have lived for less than the required period. To be eligible for citizenship the bill states, “An applicant must be engaged in a kind of work of benefit to Australia.”
 
O’Connor told the Australian Parliament that his new discretion would only be relevant to “a very small number of people in very exceptional circumstances, where their becoming a citizen would be of benefit to Australia.”
 
The bill will be fast-tracked and likely will become a law by next week as all major parties have, in-principle, given support.
 
While the legislation was drafted with Cricket Australia’s consultation, other probable citizens would also be eligible to apply under the relaxation of the citizenship rules.
 
Ahmed though would have to make an application to the minister, but his success is not guaranteed.