Shahid Khan Afridi, now a retired cricketer still often makes headlines due to his flamboyant personality, huge fan following, charitable work and blunt views on various issues. He invited barrage of criticism, after he publicly criticized governance issues and political instability in the country, saying he would have taken opposition into confidence had he been the Prime Minister. Twitterites termed the statement as his aspirations for becoming next premier of the country. From then on, a selected faction of society looks at everything he does with a keen eye and mostly target and criticize his activities.
Recently, his critics took to Twitter and expressed displeasure over Afridi’s visit to the plane crash site in Karachi, with some even labelling the visit as publicity stunt. One of the major reason for severe criticism was the presence of Pakistan Army’s jawans who took selfies with Shahid Afridi. Certain politicians and critics claimed that powerful establishment is grooming Shahid Afridi, popularly known as “Lala” amongst his fans, to be the next Prime Minister of the country.
Shahid Afridi has been doing charity work through his foundation for quite some time now; however, even his charity and welfare work is being criticized and observed with suspicion. Two pictures of him ─ one with a man laying on road and the second while he is presenting a pair of new shoes to a poor little boy ─ went viral on social media and his critics did not miss the opportunity to say, “Be prepared for another handsome cricketer as Prime Minister”. So, the question arises, who are these people who are constantly criticizing Shahid Afridi and are they justified?
It seems as if Afridi’s each and every step is observed keenly by these quarters and do not miss any opportunity to criticize him. Observations show that major portion of these critics are Pashtun nationalist and left-wing parties. Most of these critics are traditionally anti-military and is targeting Shahid Khan Afridi for his current close association with the Army. They are also wary of another cricketer popularity since the last one i.e Imran Khan has become the Prime minister of the country.
Despite few shortcomings, his criticism is mostly unjust and based on personal preferences. Shahid Afridi has huge contribution in charity work and is bringing a real change in people lives using his popularity. His recent statement on Kashmir issue where he highlighted and condemned Indian atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir generated huge debate and was widely appreciated by Kashmiris and Pakistanis all over the world. He said that bigotry and religious intolerance have gripped Narendra Modi’s mind and he is using religion for its divisive politics in India. Shahid Afridi blasted the inactivity of United Nation as well, expressing that UN had failed to stop Indian forces targeting the civilian population in Azad and Jammu Kashmir. His stance on Kashmir issue confirms Shahid Afridi’s unparalleled patriotism and his compassion & love for Kashmiris. This also shows that despite huge fan following in India, he never hesitates sharing his feelings about different contentious issues between both countries. Moreover, he has so far vehemently denied any intentions to join politics and has expressed his desire to continue his charity work. Keeping in view his contribution for the country and his charity work, unwarranted criticism from a section of his fellow countrymen and certain political figures is unjustified and uncalled for. It is imperative to ensure that any national hero who is bringing a real change in people’s lives should be supported and any efforts to make his work controversial should be avoided at all cost. There is a fear that such criticism might affect the donations to his charity organization and in turn affect his charity work.