Cricket legend Shahid Afridi on Friday said he is planning a Twenty20 match to raise money for almost half a million people displaced by a military operation in the country’s northwest.
More than 470,000 people have fled the offensive against strongholds of the Taliban and other militants in North Waziristan. Aid efforts have been stepped up to cope with the exodus and Afridi, who was born in the tribal areas, said he wanted to help.
“I am in talks with the authorities and will soon announce a Twenty20 match in Lahore to raise funds,” the big-hitting all-rounder told reporters. “I wish Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to captain one side and Imran Khan lead the other side because these two can attract more crowds and then we can raise a huge fund,” he said.
Khan, who now heads the Tehreek-e-Insaf, and is a member of Parliament, is a political adversary of Sharif. “I think if they come for the match it will become a big occasion and we can help our own people through the funds, so I would appeal both to come and join the cause,” said Afridi.
The 34-year-old was speaking at the launch of his charity foundation, which will focus on mothers and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Afridi said the foundation had set up a 16-bed maternity hospital in remote Tangi Banda village in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. “I want to return to my country what it has given me and with an aim to serve my people,” he said.
The $160,000 hospital named after Afridi’s father Fazlur Rehman was paid for by the star, who said he had been inspired by former captain Imran Khan. “Imran set an example for all of us,” said Afridi, referring to the Shaukat Khanum hospital in Lahore.
Afridi said his foundation would also work on education and sports to turn youngsters away from the path of extremism. “The youth in remote areas have no education and so whoever wants to change their mind for their own motives can use them for suicide bombings and other negative work,” said Afridi. “If we educate them then they can be more helpful for the country.”