A little over a century after their settlement in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the first member of a non-Muslim community has been issued a domicile certificate.
Eighteen-year-old Shehryar Masih was given a domicile on March 16, making him the first-ever Christian from the Khyber Agency, a FATA region, to get the right to own property and land a government job against the areas’ quota.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Shehryar’s father Arshad Masih – who is also chairman of the Christian Awareness and Development Society – said his forefathers had migrated to FATA in 1914 but even after spending decades in the tribal areas, they did not have right to buy property or apply for government jobs.
“In 2005, we raised our voice against this discriminatory act of the Pakistani government of not issuing domicile certificates and [now 10 years later] finally we have achieved our goal.”
“Before this, political agents used to issue residential certificates to the minorities in FATA but with this certificate it was impossible to get a job in the government sector,” he said.
In April 2015, the former governor of Khyber-Pakhtunhwa’s (K-P) Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan approved the summary forwarded to him by FATA Secretariat to issue domiciles to non-Muslims in FATA.
“This paved way for the development which will help non-Muslims also live a normal life like other citizens of Pakistan,” he said.
More than 50,000 non-Muslims live in FATA, while their population in Khyber Agency is 5,000. He said all the minorities in the tribal areas were facing the same problem as they were treated as outsiders in the absence of a domicile certificate.
“We also demand 5 per cent quota in government jobs, which is allocated to the minorities. Non-Muslims are also getting education and educated enough to work for the betterment of our country,” he said.
In 2015, seven members of the Sikh community and two members of the Christian community were also titled as ‘Malik’ for the first time in the history of the tribal belt. They were awarded with lungi (turban) and appointed as tribal elders.
Wilson Wazir, who was among those who became an elder, told The Express Tribune that it was a very good step taken by the K-P’s former governor and the government of Pakistan. “People of other religions have been living in FATA for so many decades but without being accorded their rights. Now the non-Muslims of FATA will also be able to get government jobs and own properties,” he said.