Sex is no laughing matter in Pakistan


April 18, 2010

IN ALL the countries that I have travelled to to perform stand-up comedy – the US being a regular destination – I have never been held up or interrogated at customs. Or I hadn’t, until I arrived in Pakistan.

I spent six hours at Lahore customs, as I did not have a visa in my British passport to enter the country. The people who organised my gig had mistakenly assumed that because my parents were born in Pakistan and I, too, am brown, they would automatically let me in.

The customs officer asked: “Are you Pakistani?” Yes. “Where were you born?” England. “That makes you a foreigner.”

He looked through my passport, which is filled with US visas. He said: “Are you a spy?” No, I’m a stand-up comedian. “What’s that?” I tell jokes. “And will you be doing that in this country?” Yes. “Oh, is this the entertainment for the Taliban?” he asked, quite seriously. No, I replied.

My first performance took place at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. I was told: “Don’t worry about performing – we’ve stepped up security because people knew you were coming.”

The fact that there needed to be security at all to tell jokes indicated danger. Pakistan is a sexually repressed country, and that is the root of many of its problems.

The last time I performed in Lahore I was told: “You can talk about anything you like – religion, politics, drugs, you can swear and curse, just don’t mention ‘The Sex’.”

In Lahore this time I am told by armed security personnel before going on stage: “Be careful, it’s best you only do halal comedy.” Halal comedy? There is no such thing. That’s like saying, I only eat halal bacon.

After the gig I had to have two armed bodyguards outside my bedroom while I slept.

I then went to perform two hours away in Karachi. The doors were locked and once again armed security guards stood outside.

I was told by the organiser: “The Pakistani Taliban are infiltrating down to the outskirts of Karachi now, so be careful with what you say. It’s best not to talk about religion, or sex, and don’t mention the word ‘gay’.” Why? “Because gay doesn’t exist in Pakistan,” she explained.

She continued: “There is a law against making any jokes about President Zardari.”

I made a joke about President Zardari. The audience laughed like they had never laughed before.

All the things the audience laughed at are the things they are most repressed about. Jokes about sex, religion and politics got the most laughter.

After the show I was invited to a party and offered a joint of marijuana, followed by a joint of opium, followed by vodka and then a discussion on porn.

I was then offered a male Russian hooker for the night.

There it is – the hypocrisy of a sexually repressed, censored society: I can’t say “gay” on stage, but after the show, opium and prostitutes are on offer.

Guardian News & Media


Filed under Humour, Pakistan, psychology, sex, Women, youth

5 responses to “Sex is no laughing matter in Pakistan

  1. Ron

    Shocking ending portion.

    “Pakistan is a sexually repressed country,”

    So is India.

    South Asia has the world’s largest SEXUALLY FRUSTRATED ADULT population in the world!!!!

  2. Steven Gardiner

    A fascinating post. There is a certain irony that as an American I was never stopped for more than a cursory question or two when entering Pakistan (even during the state of emergency in 2007), but after living in Pakistan and now the UAE I am regularly stopped when entering the United States. Once I was held up at customs for about 3 hours on the way to an academic conference while the customs official read and photocopied the paper I was going to deliver–dealing with issues of sovereignty in Pakistan!

  3. Octavian

    Boo hoo, I was stopped at customs because I didn’t have a visa. Yeah we get stopped in the UK, sometimes even if we HAVE a visa. Frankly I’m glad they interrogated her.

    That being said, Pakistan is totally sexually suppressed. This energy should be put to good use…

  4. Najma Naizi

    Shahiz – You have the right attitude, if you cannot laugh about it ….what’s life for ? Love you and your comedy and the risks you take to do something you love. If you can change one person with your laughter then you have made this world a better place.
    I am surprised the media in Pakistan is not promoting you I think Comedy Central in the US should give you a regular gig so that the mentally deficient population that cover the “tea baggers” can begin to appreciate you.
    All I can say …..”you go girl”
    I am writing to the producers of the View and Opray to feature you……

  5. azhar aslam

    Shazia Mirza

    Please grow up

    RR such a silly patronising ignorant piece from a bbcd on PTH ?

    Shazia should stick to stand-up comedy, she has lot of catching up to do at apollo yet