There's a new face going viral on Pakistan's social media scene; this time it's a comedian.
Syed Shafaat Ali has made himself well-known (on Facebook, at least) with his hilarious impersonations of politicians and celebrities.
Born in Peshawar but currently residing in Lahore, Shafaat has been in the media industry for quite some time, with popular program like GEO TV's BNN (Banana News Network) under his belt.
"My career kick-started in November 2006 when I became a part of the Four Man Show," says the comedian. "We had a segment on the show in which we would prank call people pretending to be famous personalities. At times I would impersonate Pervez Musharraf, sometimes Shaukat Aziz. Before this I had never really done impersonations and had never thought I'd be doing something like this."
However, his claim to fame is a video he posted on Facebook which immediately got everyone's attention.
"I haven't received one but countless threats [for my impersonations]. Just recently I received a tweet from Senator Saeed Ghani, an affiliate of Pakistan People's Party, asking me to steer clear of Bhutto impersonations, and that upset me because people here still don't understand comedy. We belong to the entertainment industry and I don't know why politicians take it so seriously," says Shafaat.
"Sadly, it's the parties which call themselves liberals who give me the hardest time. Thankfully, however, most people enjoy my impersonations and I've received a lot of positive responses."
But Shafaat Ali has made it a point to keep these threats away from his family. He jokes, "My wife is already suffering because of me; she has to put up with me practicing impersonations on a daily basis. If I get a threat I usually don't tell anyone in my family, I discuss it with my close friends and try to sort it out."
Despite the sudden popularity Shafaat has mixed feelings about his viral video.
"When this video became viral, I was a little upset because I've been in the entertainment industry for a long time, but when numerous social media pages shared my video, people commented asking, 'Who is he?'. To which many responded with fake information like, 'I know this guy, he was in my school' and other such ridiculous things. That's when I realised that social media has now become way more powerful than television," he says.
And this is only the beginning of Shafaat Ali's career. He hopes to become the a great stand-up comedian and bring Pakistan's stand-up comedy to an international platform. He pointed out that currently, besides Saad Haroon, there are no known stand-up comedians representing Pakistan internationally.
Does he feel threatened by competition from other local comedians? He answers in the negative.
"I respect everyone, they're all doing a good job however, my style of comedy focuses on my voice and in my field there is less competition," he says. "Personally, I want to string together stand-up comedy and impersonations because I feel it's a good fusion."
His international icon is American comedian Jimmy Fallon, whose comedic style he admires, and from the local pool he admires comedian Mir Mohammad Ali.
The social media sensation is also eyeing the film industry and waiting for the right film to work in.
"I would love to work in a film which leaves a lasting impact on society, something like Na Maloom Afraad or Jawani Phir Nahi Ani or Actor in Law. So I am waiting for an offer to work in a film like that. At the moment though I'm also writing a film as I have previously written the scripts for BNN, Four Man Show and Mere Aziz Hum Watnon."
"Some things are God-given but you have to keep practicing," says Shafaat of teaching his talent to others. "There's no dearth of talent in Pakistan but most Pakistanis lack the courage to pursue their passion. From my end I have started a campaign 'Comedy for a Cause' where I hope to have comedy sessions within schools and colleges and discuss serious matters and issues in the form of comedy."
He adds, "Of course, comedy can't solve the problems but maybe it will help in dealing with the issues and will be able to raise voices on matters that are important."
The writer can be reached on Twitter.