Faiza Saleem – Tackling hypocrisy with comedy

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Peter Ustinov’s take on comedy fits what Faiza Saleem is now recognized for “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”

Born and raised in Karachi, she is the youngest of four siblings. After completing her basic education, she went on to train as a lawyer and graduated with an LLB degree a couple of years ago.

“Like most young and idealist minds, I wanted to make a difference and believed then that only changing the legal system would help me to achieve that.”

Photo by: Zareera Bukhari

Photo by: Zareera Bukhari

After graduating she joined a public policy think tank where she headed their law department, working on the loopholes in the criminal prosecution system of Pakistan. Her work took her to all sorts of places associated with the legal system. This included visiting police stations around Karachi, in a rickshaw to collect material for her research.

No wonder her Facebook bio states ‘During my short (and on-going) journey as a lawyer, I realized that it’s easier to make people laugh than to get them their basic human rights, so here I am. The idea is to share a little bit of happiness with y’all, with hopes that you’ll help spread it further.’

“I can’t say that everyone in the system is corrupt but corruption is so deeply embedded in our institutions that it’s hard for anyone to be part of the system and escape it.”

When asked as to when comedy came into the picture, Faiza shared that it started off from her school days, where she would write skits for school plays and was involved in the theater as well. However, the realization that comedy was her passion materialized during her law practice and decided to take the plunge.

Photo by: Sara Ahmed

Photo by: Sara Ahmed

Given that even today any form of art is not considered a main stream profession, so how did her family react to her decision?

To this Faiza shared that her immediate family despite being sceptical initially was supportive nonetheless. With time this support has only increased.

“I think everyone has understood now that comedy is a serious business!”

Someone who believes that change comes from individual initiatives, she is of the opinion that people who are in the field already need to lead the way and help encourage and motivate others. Their hard work will help others take on the path to achieve their own goals. However, the government can help by facilitating with the creation of institutions and performance spaces, where people can polish their talent and get the platforms that will help them grow.

Talking about her own inspirations, Faiza shared that there are not many, but in Pakistan she really admires Hina Dilpazeer and the late Moin Akhtar.

Photo by: Sara Ahmed

Photo by: Sara Ahmed

Using the tool of social media, Faiza introduced her work to the world. Though her page is just over a year old it is getting a good amount of traction and her work is being appreciated. Starting off as a solo performer she has now started her comedy troupe, The Khawatoons, which is Pakistan’s first all-girls comedy troupe. They have done shows in Karachi, Lahore and are soon going to Rahim Yar Khan. They plan to further expand and perform all over the country in the future.

Faiza is addressing some pretty serious topics through her comedy and challenging all sorts of stereotypes ingrained in our society. From body shaming, what is considered an acceptable female behavior to our idea of class difference; whatever the majority considers taboo, she takes it head on and puts her audience in fits while subtly making them re-think ideas that they inherited over generations and hold so dear without question. The stereotypes she is breaking are not limited to our own society but deal with stereotypes about Pakistan that the rest of the world holds.

“I am very patriotic and have always wanted the world to see Pakistan from my eyes”

At the young age of 25, what we all get to see through her eyes is insightful and refreshing. Her work has turned me into a fan. If you have somehow managed to miss out her charms, do check out her work and you will be pleasantly surprised.


Interview & Written by Fatima Arif

Featured Image: Dawn.com

Featured Image Illustration by: Fahad Naveed

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