Why are you so controversial in Pakistan?
I'm involved in an industry in which women are regularly criticized. I'm an independent woman; this is a very big deal in our conservative society. Men in our society cannot tolerate this, they don't know how to process it. That's why they criticize me.
And you don't feel safe in Pakistan anymore?
I'm receiving threats; I'm receiving letters from people saying they will kill me. But this will not stop me from going back to Pakistan. God willing, I'll be able to return one day; but I haven't spent a full week in the country over the past year.
Who are your biggest enemies?
Male colleagues in my profession who are envious of my success. And the Taliban, they are threatening me as well. And those nationalist conservatives in Pakistan who see me as neglecting my own country by appearing on Indian platforms. I don't know which of these groups is my biggest enemy; they are all my enemies.
If you could do anything for the women of Pakistan, what would you do?
The first thing I would do is give them awareness. I would educate them, tell them how strong they are, how they don't have to be dependent on anyone for financial reasons, for any reason. If you are married, it's very beautiful to have a true partnership, as opposed to hiding in the shadow of a man. You can live your life the way you want it, and you can build your life. You don't have to look to a man and wonder if you'll receive your meal for the day or not. Or for clothes. For anything.
OK, since you are such an expert on men, why aren't you in a relationship?
I was 20 years old when I fell for a guy, but then he started hitting me. He was very aggressive towards me. He beat me. That made me really sensitive. Ever since then I've been too scared of being hurt to be in a relationship. I believe in love. But to me, it's scary now, because of that experience. I've been thinking about giving it another chance; but honestly, I have so many other things going on that it rarely comes to my mind.
What's your favorite expression?
جیو اور جینی دو. 'To live, and let other people live.' I believe God gave every individual their own life; it's a gift, and everyone has equal right to it. No one has a right to interfere in someone else's and limit their God-given freedom, or impose anything."
How can mothers in Pakistan raise their daughters to be brave and outspoken like you?
My father forced my sisters, who were 12 and 13, to marry. I come from a very poor family. I looked at them and I stood up for myself, and I said no, I'm not going to face this future, and I won't get married. From then on, I started living my life. We were very, very poor, but I was studying and working. My father wasn't able to afford my studies. So I said, OK, I will work. People were talking about me, and they were like, 'Oh, don't go into this profession, it's really cheap, you will lose respect.' But I said no, I have to support myself and my family. I learned all these things from experience. Now my family is very supportive, my dad is very supportive, because I have been supporting them for the last eight years. They are so proud of me. But I would tell mothers in Pakistan one thing: Always be positive. Life and death is not in our hands, but we can make a difference. As a human being, you can give hope to at least four or five people around you, you can be creative, you can live a life that matters. I think circumstances forced me to become who I am today, and that's what's made me truly independent.
What's your message for women?
Respect your men. Love your men. But don't forget that God created you for a reason. For who you are. For how you want to live your life. You should be aware of yourself, of who you are, before you give birth to a new generation of human beings. You must know about the world, you must know yourself, in order to raise the next generation. You're not less worthy than a man.
Interview conducted in Urdu and translated to English by Radio Free Afghanistan's Farishta Jalalzai. It has been condensed and edited