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OPINION: Ali Zafar seems to be getting the upper hand on Meesha Shafi

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Let me start off by saying that I do not condone sexual harassment or sexual abuse. It is one of the most heinous crimes and should never go unpunished. However, in the case of Ali Zafar and Meesha Shafi, I was always of the opinion that the courts were the best forum to decide the issue.

It all started last year when Meesha Shafi sent ripples through the Pakistani world of showbiz when she accused Ali Zafar–arguably Pakistan’s biggest name in the world of showbiz and entertainment–of sexually harassing her on more than once occasion. Hours later, Zafar posted a tweet of his own in which he denied the allegations and said that he would take legal action against Ms Shafi.

Social media stood divided. Many called for Ali Zafar to be banned from films, movies and be shunned from award ceremonies. There were others, fans of the singer, who demanded that he was innocent unless proven guilty.

Despite it all, Ali broke records with his movie Teefa in Trouble. There was trouble in paradise–his co-star Maya Ali was caught in the cross-hairs of the conflict when she praised Ali Zafar. Social media activists slammed her for working with someone like Zafar who was accused of sexual harassment by a woman and also, for defending him.

The movie broke Jawani Phir Nahi Aani’s record by amassing Rs5 crores in just three days of its release. There were protests and activists demanded Ali Zafar’s movie be boycotted but cinemas paid no heed and cinemagoers certainly didn’t heed the call. The movie went on to become a blockbuster and Zafar received critical and commercial acclaim.

Then came the Lux Style Awards. Once again, all hell broke loose when Ali Zafar was nominated for an award. Model Eman Suleman announced that she would boycott the awards and director Jami placed his LSA plaque on the street outside his house. Ali Zafar was once again back up against the wall.

Meanwhile, neither Meesha Shafi nor her legal representatives were appearing before the court in Ali Zafar’s defamation case. The singer had sued Ms Shafi under the Defamation Ordinance 2002 for Rs1 billion.

Here’s where things went downhill for Meesha Shafi. After the singer and actress did not attend proceedings regularly, she was fined Rs10,000 by the court. Shafi and her lawyers claimed that they were not summoned by the court but Zafar and his legal eagles claimed that she was resorting to delaying tactics.

Meesha moved the court to seek a different judge as she accused the current one of bias towards her. Her wish was granted. However, Ai Zafar was able to produce nine witnesses who were present at the jam session when Meesha was allegedly harassed by Ali Zafar.

Among the nine witnesses were two women as well, both claiming that Meesha had lied. Guitarist Asad Ahmed, bass player Muhammad Ali, drummer Qaiser Zain, backing vocalists Aqsa Ali and Kinza Munir, saxophone player Muhammad Taqi, percussionist Kashif Chaman, flute player Baqir Abbas, and keyboard player Joshua Keith were produced by Ali Zafar’s counsel as eyewitnesses at the rehearsal session during which Shafi claimed she was harassed
Zain told lawyers that he was standing right behind the singers and would have witnessed anything even close to what Shafi claims.

Ahmed was backed by Zain’s statement and stated that he as well was watching both the singers.

All the witnesses maintained that the singers were standing two to three feet apart throughout the rehearsals.
Ali Zafar also presented the court (and the media) proofs that supported his version more than Shafi’s. For instance, Meesha claimed he harassed her during the jam session. However, Meesha Shafi had thanked Ali Zafar after the jam session for saying kind words about her on-stage. The message was unearthed by Zafar and his team and displayed as evidence that the jam session went smoothly. Ms Shafi admitted that she had sent the message but claimed that it was sent to end matters professionally.

Ali also showed a tweet (that Meesha deleted later) talking about the jam session in a pretty light manner. “I guess I post slower than I travel and perform? Last night in Islamabad crooning with Ali Zafar live,” she tweeted.

It seems that Ali Zafar has shown an ample amount of what he calls ‘evidence’ to support his claim. There are multiple women who accused Ali Zafar of harassment however, they have not appeared before the court nor spoken further about their ordeal. For the time being, it seems as if Ali Zafar has the upper hand on Meesha Shafi.

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