Fatima Shaheen is a Barrister by training. She holds a degree of Bachelor in Law from University of London & was called to the Bar in England & Wales at The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.

Fatima has diverse work experience from that ranging to hard core litigation to corporate advisory work; from human rights advocacy to influencing law/policy making. Additionally, her TV career spans to around 13 years where she has worked with various private TV Channels hosting different genre of shows. She joined PTV in 2012 with her show ‘Qanoon Bolta Hai’, a popular show recognised by the Pakistani Government to help it fulfill its’ international obligations as per Pakistan’s Periodic Report on compliance with CEDAW in 2017.

Since 2019, Fatima has also been hosting a social issues based English talk show ‘The Society’ at PTV World. Fatima was nominated as ‘Ponds Miracle Woman’ of the Year 2018 & her work has been officially recognised & acknowledged by Pakistan’s first ever ‘Women in Law’ Publication too.

Fatima, you are recognized as one of the most influential women in Pakistan, could you share a bit about yourself and your educational journey?

I did my O & A Levels from Lahore Grammar School after which I completed my University of London, LLB Honours Degree. Then I went to London for my BAR and studied the Bar Vocational Course at Inns of Court School of Law (now City Law School).

A lot of people don’t know this but I don’t come from either a legal or a media background—rather I come from a family of doctors!

From receiving professional education in Law to building your career in media, tell us about the transition.  What compelled you to change your field?

People often ask me that question. A lot of people do not know but in addition to conducting my TV shows, I have been teaching law….furthermore I am also working as an independent legal consultant. Hence it would be wrong to say that I have changed my field completely.

Earlier on in my career, I have worked with top notch lawyers like Asma Jahangir, Justice Ayesha Malik (now sitting a Supreme Court Judge). I always wanted to make most of my practical experience of the profession. I wanted to share my knowledge through media ,and TV allowed me to do just that. I used media to translate all my practical knowledge/ experience of the legal profession for the betterment of the Pakistani masses.

What is the ultimate goal that you want to achieve by spreading awareness and giving life to real taboo issues in Pakistan?

I am a strong believer of the fact that awareness is empowerment for all,especially for women/vulnerable segments of the Pakistani society. Those who are unaware of their rights cannot claim them. Hence my ultimate aim in conducting informative shows is to ‘empower’ the Pakistani society at large.

Debate & discussion about real taboo issues be it child rape, honour killings or domestic abuse etc definitely sensitizes the society about the same. It helps shape societal attitudes in developing zero tolerance for such crimes. Media, as we all know, has a strong role in making & breaking stereotypes &/or in changing perceptions—I (in my limited capacity) try to use my television shows to do just the same.

We know TV Anchor Fatima Shaheen. Tell us something personal about yourself, something which we don’t know?

I am glad I am a principled and secure person, I do not believe we need the opinions or pronouncements of others to feel validated or feel we have self-worth. I believe the most subversive thing a woman can do is be happy with herself. I surround myself with a group of likeminded friends, who I know I can trust fully.  But I must also admit a weak spot of mine—I am notoriously impatient, especially if I sense a weak or flawed argument. If you want to win me over, you either have to be genuinely kind or you have to bribe me to dessert. I’m big on sweets!

What stimulates you to come up with new ideas for your shows?

Several things shape the scope and direction of each show. I actively follow news and latest developments to ensure my shows are up to date and topical, I like to deepen people’s knowledge and information regarding what is happening all around them. I also quite like meeting new people of diverse backgrounds and differing experiences, this helps me deepen my own understanding and offer fresh perspectives on television. As they say, everybody has a story to tell and I have met hundreds of people with stories worth telling.

How do you manage time for yourself in such a busy routine?

To be honest, this has always remained a struggle. I am always striving to be better at time management, which I find easier on the weekends when I am “off” but as we all know, the news never sleeps! I also am quite nocturnal, something I am actively working on changing. But of course the success of a person is based on how diligent they are to their priorities. I work hard to ensure I give time to my work and of course, make time for the most important people in my life too.

Your love for fashion speaks for itself! Who are your favorite designers nationally & internationally?

Sania Maskatiya, Bunto Kazmi & Fahad Hussayn top my list of favorites in Pakistan. Love Coco Chanel’s statement pieces & her distinct signature style, which reflects clearly in all her pieces. Big fan of Elie Saab & the attention he gives to detail in his line. My list would be incomplete without Manish Malhotra & Sabyasachi Mukerjee; both of whom I love for their feminine, exquisite yet balanced designs.

What are the social challenges faced by women in Pakistan’s media Industry? Especially when dealing with sensitive topics?

It isn’t easy being a woman in media anywhere in the world. I would say there is general pressure on a wide variety of issues. First is the painful salary gap between female and male individuals, everyone knows it’s true and yet we are still stuck with this injustice. Yet woman must always work thrice as hard to be seen as credible as their male colleagues. I recall in my early days I was refused a show because I looked too young to be talking about challenges such as domestic violence, divorce, etc. People will flock to hire a young girl if she comes across as a dumb blonde, and seat her next to a smart enough middle-aged or higher male counterpart, showing that gender discrimination is alive and well in our society. Yet I believe these challenges produce real stars because women are tenacious and determined. That is why you have several fantastic female anchors and reporters worthy of admiration.

We know your love for travelling! Which countryyou visited left a lasting impact on you?

I went to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil a few years ago and I must say it was one place which left a lasting impact on me. Brazilians’ ability to smile on everything that came their way, their positive energy and infectious vibes and their zest to celebrate today, likethere is no tomorrow definitely left me thinking…why  it is  so important to celebrate life even when its isn’t good! I met ‘real’ people in Brazil and that is what made the trip so memorable for me!

If you could have coffee with any celebrity/public/historical figure, who would you choose?

I would have coffee with Princess Diana—I am a die hard fan of the late Princess; her looks, her style, her love for humanity, and her kindness will always make her a source of fascination for me. I would like to ask her one question—how did she gain the courage to speak up for what she believed in….against ALL odds?!

In an age of social media and instant access to public figures, how do you manage to maintain an aura of mystery around you?

I think its’ because I am selective about what I share online—I post to keep my followers and fans interested, but not to bore them with every tiny detail of my life. Your aura is established from the tone you set for yourself, the access you give others into your personal space—be spontaneous, but do not let them see everything!

Who has influenced your decisions the most—whether it is in real life or your career?

My mother and my best friend…both. They are two people I always turn to for advice and support. Both of them have always encouraged me to do things—I might just not have done staying in my comfort zone. Later on, these things have turned out to be the perhaps the best decisions of my life!

Your message to your fans?

Love yourself first & everything else will then fall into line!

Photography by: Marib Shahid Alvi

Makeup by: Layla Belal

Wardrobe by: Noreen & Neelam

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