PESHAWAR: Several hundred Pakistani university students sit enraptured as Hammad Safi lectures them on the merits of bettering their diction by watching Barack Obama speeches on YouTube.
The elegantly dressed motivational speaker is something of an internet sensation in Pakistan and regularly draws large crowds.
But it’s not just because of his infectious enthusiasm and engaging smile. It’s also because he’s only 11 years old.
Safi speaks into his wireless microphone, his hand gestures practised and his confidence unwavering before the attention of his elders at the University of Spoken English (USECS) in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
The pint-sized motivational coach is already an online star with his own YouTube channel and 145,000 subscribers. Some videos have been viewed millions of times.
Some of his advice may sound hackneyed: “every second is a challenge,” he says in one video. “Failure is the basis of success.”
But his audiences don’t seem to mind.
Bilal Khan, a political science student twice Safi’s age who came to listen to his speech, said the boy wonder had had a profound effect on him.
“A few months ago I was really disappointed with life… I was (thinking) about suicide, because there are no jobs and no success in life,” he told AFP.
“Then I saw a movie of Hammad Safi. I thought, if an 11-year-old child can do anything, why can’t I?”
Online comments also shower him with praise.
“People love him because he’s just talking, he’s a hit every time,” says Samiullah Waqil, one of his former English teachers.
Safi’s youth and precociousness seem to form part of the enchantment.
But he is also seen as presenting a positive image of Pakistan, one that resonates powerfully with his listeners.
Discussing Allama Iqbal, a renowned poet widely regarded as having inspired the movement to create Pakistan, Safi says: “If he had not been there, I or anyone else would surely be cleaning the toilet in the house of an Englishman.”—AFP