PESHAWAR: Former Pakistan cricketer turned politician Imran Khan launched a scheme Saturday to scout talent in the troubled northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, hoping the game could bolster anti-terrorism efforts. Khan, who led Pakistan to their only World Cup win in Australia in 1992, said he hoped finding new talent in the region could help Pakistan win the title once more. “This is the start to a campaign to unearth talent in the KPK (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), who will in turn bring another World Cup to Pakistan,” Khan said at the launch of the scheme.
Khan’s political party – Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) – emerged as the third biggest force in last year’s elections and formed a provincial government in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, plagued by frequent suicide bomb bombings by Taliban militants. His party faces the challenge of bringing peace to the province, with Khan a vocal advocate on holding talks with the Taliban. “I hope and pray that peace is restored in every part including FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) where a lot of cricket talent needs to be unearthed,” said Khan, who played 88 Tests and 175 one-day internationals for Pakistan during an illustrious career.
Khan said he was himself unearthed by a talent hunt scheme. “Forty years ago I went to Lahore University ground and was selected as a 16-year-old boy,” said Khan. “When I launched the first scheme in Karachi 20 years ago we unearthed Shahid Afridi,” he added, describing the allrounder who still plays limited overs cricket for Pakistan. Afridi, also present at the launch, said young Pakistani talent was needed to supplement people like Khan both in cricket and politics as well as to divert young people away from extremism. “It’s a healthy activity and will help divert the youth to constructive activities, so I request the youth to support Khan, both in cricket and politics,” said Afridi. Under the talent hunt scheme eight teams will be selected throughout KP province and selected players will be recommended to Pakistan’s national selectors.
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