Melbourne, July 10: Pakistan refugee spinner Fawad Ahmed today officially became an Australian citizen at a citizenship ceremony conducted by Minister Brendan O'Connor at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Melbourne.
After last week getting the news that his citizenship application was successful, today's ceremony completed the fulfilment of a dream for Ahmed, a media release from Cricket Australia (CA) said.
"It is a great day for me and it has been a dream of mine to become a citizen of Australia ever since I arrived here at the beginning of 2010," rejoiced Ahmed.
"Thank you to Minister Brendan O'Connor, Minister Chris Bowen and everyone in the Parliament for all their help.
"And thank you to the great people at Cricket Australia, Cricket Victoria and Melbourne University Cricket Club for their support. This would not have happened without them," Ahmed said.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland expressed his joy at Ahmed becoming an Australian citizen:
"This is a proud day for Australian cricket. Fawad Ahmed is a talented cricketer, but most of all he is a wonderful human being.
"He has confronted many challenges along the way, so today is a day for celebration. We are incredibly happy for him.
"In addition, Cricket Australia expresses its gratitude to all members of the Commonwealth Parliament, but in particular to former Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O'Connor for pursuing and supporting the necessary changes to the Citizenship Act," Sutherland said.
"These legislative changes helped enable Ahmed to today fulfil his dream of becoming an Australian citizen.
"This is a dream that appeared a distant hope only 10 months ago when Ahmed, with the support of CA, submitted his final avenue of appeal to Treasurer Chris Bowen (then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) to endeavour to stay in Australia. His appeal was ultimately successful, but while he awaited a decision Ahmed was trying to come to terms with the fact that he might be sent back to Pakistan, and his home region of North West Frontier Province on the Afghanistan border.
"The rest is now history, however the amendments to the Citizenship Act are also important symbolically for CA. We want cricket to be a sport for all Australians, and the legislation will give cricket a greater capacity to do this, long after Fawad Ahmed has made his mark in Australian cricket," concluded Sutherland.
Ahmed will depart this weekend for Australia A's Tour of Africa, to take part in a month-long series of matches in Zimbabwe and South Africa.