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Imran Khan sent Shehryar Afridi to UNGA to speak on Kashmir. But he is vlogging in Times Square

World leaders are in New York this week, and so is Pakistan Kashmir committee chairman Afridi. But he is roaming around in a Levi’s shirt, commenting on women and the homeless.

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New York is lit this week because of the United Nations General Assembly. There will be world leaders who’ll make speeches at the UN and then there are those who want first-time entry as the new rulers of Afghanistan — the Taliban. But who stands out, literally, is a first-time visitor to the United States from Pakistan, Shehryar Khan Afridi. We will tell you why.

As chairman of Pakistan’s parliamentary committee on Kashmir, Shehryar Afridi was sent to the UNGA by Prime Minister Imran Khan to tell the world what all has been brewing in Jammu and Kashmir. The idea of his visit is reportedly to “raise awareness”.

However, somewhere down the awareness trip, Shehryar Afridi lost his own awareness. Wearing a Levi’s T-shirt, he decided to become a vlogger and lecture the mighty United States. Seen roaming in Time’s Square, recording homeless people on the sidewalks, and doing live commentary on the women passing by, he insisted that Pakistanis should be thankful for everything that they are blessed with. “Look at the condition of women in the country which lectures others on human rights. Women in Pakistan are living under better conditions than in those countries that pretend to be the champions of human rights,” Afridi tells us from New York. Meanwhile, Pakistani women continue to fight the endemic of violent sexual crimes. As Afridi patronises, the family of Noor Mukadam, who was beheaded in Islamabad, is seeking justice, and another woman from Karachi is raped for two years by her brother who kept her hostage in an apartment.

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Devoid of any diplomatic manners Afridi’s nine-minute lecture is a typical example of the genre: Mere Pakistanio, tum jis haal mein ho, doosro se bohot behtar reh rahe ho (Pakistanis, the way you’re living is much better than others), so don’t ask for more. Afridi praises Imran Khan for launching langar schemes in Pakistan after he finds the first homeless man in Time’s Square. Though the question is, if you want to hit a home run on your PM’s performance, why go this far? Make a video in any Pakistani city, and upload it on your YouTube channel and save the exchequer’s money. So, if CNN thinks US President Joe Biden not calling PM Khan is a punishment, then Shehryar Afridi wandering aimlessly in Manhattan is our PM’s punishment for the US.

We now wait for Afridi’s ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty, from where he’ll probably tell us how Liberty is also a “quom ki beti” who is standing by herself – look at the decaying values. Where is the West headed? He’d ask.

On his arrival to the US, Shehryar Afridi was stopped at the JFK Airport for a secondary screening. But the rumour mills wouldn’t stop at anything less than Afridi being strip-searched at JFK, to which he responded that this was propaganda by the “Indian lobby” because he was in the US for the great cause of Kashmir. Afridi had himself jubilantly furthered the same propaganda earlier on the floor of Pakistan’s national assembly when a morphed image of former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi being stripped searched in an American airport was doing the rounds. Afridi had then said, the law of any law is supreme. Now the shoe was on the other foot, and chairman, Kashmir committee wasn’t much elated.

So, these awareness trips always bring back the best lessons in parallel history: In 2019, PM Khan felt he won the 1992 World Cup after UNGA and his supporters found, rather gave birth, to ‘Senator Tony Booker’ to silence all critics amongst other life-altering lessons for us.

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Maine jaan allah ko deni hai

Afridi, in his previous outing as minister for narcotics control, earned the title of ‘Maine jaan allah ko deni hai’. It’s what he would reply with when repeatedly asked for evidence in a high-profile narcotics case against a political opponent Rana Sanaullah. Then there was the time when Afridi declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed as Pakistan’s asset and said there was no ‘Mai ka laal’ (mother’s son) who could harm him as long as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was in the national assembly.

Another time, Afridi became emotional over General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s extension and declared on TV that the army chief was like “our father”. To which the news anchor said that every six years the change of army chief is a given, but a father can’t be changed this way. Only Afridi’s heart knew what others didn’t get. We also didn’t get when Afridi was awarded the ministry of SAFRON (States and Frontier Regions), which didn’t exist. But in Naya Pakistan, these things happen all the time. How else do you explain Afridi telling us that PM Khan had a detailed conversation in 2019 with Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who had died in 2017? See, the PM can speak to the dead.

Among Afridi’s many triumphs was him signing his name on the ballot in the Senate election and getting his vote rejected. He even got a dressing down by the prime minister for it. In his application to recast the vote, Afridi told the presiding officer that he had been unwell and could not attend party meetings for election preparation. But to no avail. Yet, as chairman of the Kashmir committee, he is on an all-important mission to tell the world about Pakistan’s Kashmir cause, something that Imran Khan criticised Maulana Fazlur Rehman several times for failing to do as the past chairman of the committee. While as a vlogger, Afridi’s attention has remained on the domestic issues Biden faces, we do hope that if nothing else, a call from the Oval Office would come through at the end of an already successful US trip.

The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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