Having previously represented his country at Under-15 level, he made his ODI debut for Pakistan in 2000 when he was 17 years old against Sri Lanka in Karachi and took his first wicket in this match. He played just one more match the following year before being dropped. He was given a second chance at international cricket in the last ODI against England in December 2005 and was retained for the series against India in February 2006, but was left out of the ODI squad for the subsequent tour in England. His next chance at international cricket came in the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy when he was one of the players called up to the Pakistan squad for the Champions Trophy to replace Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif who had both failed drug tests.
On 8 December 2007, Arafat made his Test match debut for Pakistan against India in Bangalore in the third and final Test of the series. He displayed his all-round abilities by taking 7 wickets in the match including a 5-wicket haul, and scoring 44 in the first innings.
It had been reported (2 August 2008, Hindustan Times, Karachi) that he has signed with the Kolkata Knight Riders to play in the second season of the Indian Premier League 20/20 tournament in 2009 although as Pakistanis were not allowed to play in the tournament, no deal was reached.
The Kent fans seem to have immediately taken to Arafat. At their recent Friends Provident Trophy game against Surrey at The Brit Oval they often chanted of 'There's only one Yasir Arafat', later on, as a pun, 'There's only two Yasir Arafat's'. Others included 'We've nicked your tea towel', also in jest.
Arafat is an old fashioned seam bowler and is able to swing the ball both to and from the batsman.
Following the 2008 season, Arafat signed once more for Sussex as their overseas player for 2009, signing to return again for another season in 2010. In 2011 he signed for Surrey CCC. He joined Lancashire as an overseas player for the 2012 Friends Life t20.