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Is Shahid Afridi Being Groomed To Become The PM Of Pakistan?

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Former cricket captain turned philanthropist and public figure Shahid Afridi has been ever more visible in the past few weeks.

For some commentators, his intensified public visibility is a prelude to entry into politics. They cite his cricketing persona and assertive nationalism as factors that would make him increasingly interesting to various power-centres in Pakistani politics – with a precedent in the form of the current Prime Minister Imran Khan.

If anything, this perspective holds, with PM Imran Khan’s project of political change now increasingly facing complications and difficulties, it may be just the right time for traditional power-centres to shift their hopes to a new conservative populist project in Pakistan.

He was recently seen visiting the site of the PIA Flight 8303 crash tragedy, alongside security personnel. Earlier, he had made a fiery denunciation of Indian policies in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, his many fans and supporters insist that his presence in the public spotlight is only natural given his stature in the imagination of a cricket-loving Pakistani public and his role as a philanthropist. They say that the scope of his philanthropy now stretches across Pakistan, and that he is no different from other public figures who are comfortable in the public spotlight to achieve their goals in serving the public.

They argue also that his visit to the site of a tragedy is no different from those by other political and public figures.

But as images of him praying by the road-side have circulated widely on social media, the debate around his public image has heated up. He has never shied away from political opinions, even though he has so far maintained that he has no interest in politics. Or does he?

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In any case, when a journalist asked him what his plans would be if he were to be made prime minister of Pakistan for 10 days, during a ceremony held as part of his nation-wide campaign called “Taleem Ho Gi Aam, Her Beti Key Naam”, Afridi said that he would address the issues of unemployment and education.

Here are some of the many opinions and varied imagery around the popular cricketing hero, as he gains increasing visibility – on electronic and social media alike.

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