Australia mulls citizenship for Pakistani guard in Sydney mall attack

Published April 18, 2024
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Australia Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri visits Pakistani security guard Muhammad Taha at a hospital in Sydney, Australia, April 18.
— Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri X
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Australia Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri visits Pakistani security guard Muhammad Taha at a hospital in Sydney, Australia, April 18. — Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri X

Australia’s prime minister said on Thursday he will consider granting citizenship to a Pakistani security guard wounded in the deadly Sydney shopping centre knife attack.

The guard, Muhammad Taha, reportedly said he believed he “deserved recognition and consideration for citizenship” after being stabbed.

In a bedside interview with The Australian, Taha said he was attacked just after fellow Pakistani security guard Faraz Tahir, one of the six people killed at the Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction.

Taha has a graduate visa due to expire in less than a month, the paper said.

The guard reportedly noted that Frenchman Damien Guerot, since dubbed “bollard man”, had been offered permanent residency after a video shared on social media showed him using a bollard to fend off the attacker, Joel Cauchi.

Asked in a radio interview if the Australian government would entertain Taha’s citizenship request, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “Yes, we certainly will.”

Albanese described the killing of Faraz Tahir as a “tragedy”.

“This other person, Muhammad Taha, he confronted this guy, the perpetrator, Joel Cauchi, on Saturday. And it just shows extraordinary courage,” the prime minister said.

Both men put themselves in danger to protect Australians they did not know, Albanese said. “That’s the sort of courage that we want to say thank you to, frankly.”

Albanese said Guerot would receive permanent residency, which he had been seeking, on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday hailed Guerot and his fellow Frenchman Silas Despreaux for trying to stop the mall attacker.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Australia Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri visited Taha at the hospital today and said his condition was improving.

“Both Taha and other Pakistani Faraz showed exemplary courage to confront the knife attacker. They made us proud,” he said.

Sydney mall reopens

Meanwhile, the Westfield shopping mall held a sombre reopening today with members of a sorrowful community filing past rows of still-shuttered stores to pay their respects.

Shops will reopen properly on Friday, nearly a week after 40-year-old Cauchi rampaged through the mall.

But Thursday’s “slow reopening” was billed as a chance for shocked Sydneysiders to reflect.

It’s an opportunity to express solidarity and condolences and to “turn the page on what’s been a very difficult period” for the city, said New South Wales Premier Chris Minns. It was, he said, a “first step in healing”.

A woman places flowers at a memorial setup inside of the Westfield shopping centre in Bondi Junction in Sydney on April 18. — AFP
A woman places flowers at a memorial setup inside of the Westfield shopping centre in Bondi Junction in Sydney on April 18. — AFP

Throughout the week, wellwishers left piles of flowers knee-deep outside the shopping centre — usually thronged with families or people grabbing some food, groceries or clothes.

The crowds thinned considerably today. Digital displays that once showed glitzy ads and maps to help shoppers navigate the labyrinthine complex were instead fixed with pixelled black ribbons on a plain white background.

On one polished-stone concourse, a crescent of white flower bouquets and wreaths framed a message of remembrance and a simple white table. Placed atop it were more flowers, more bouquets and a book for passers-by to inscribe what words they could muster.

The attack shocked Sydney’s normally peaceful Eastern Suburbs area, where dangers usually amount to no more than a rip current along the beach, a jogging injury or an unfortunate encounter with the native fauna.

Television channels and newspapers have published the numbers of helplines for residents struggling to come to terms with the unfathomable violence in their backyard.

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