Ali Zafar, a singer, and actor had been accused of harassing multiple women, however, the case against him was dismissed by court, creating uproar in Pakistani society.
Pakistan’s very own #MeToo case is creating nationwide debate about feminism and privilege of famous wealthy men after a case against a high-profile musician and actor was dismissed by Lahore High Court.
Ali Zafar a famous singer, actor from Pakistan was accused by fellow singer Meesha Shafi of sexually harassing her on multiple occasions.
She wrote on Twiter last April, “I have been subjected, on more than one occasion, to sexual harassment of a physical nature at the hands of a colleague from my industry: Ali Zafar.”
Zafar “categorically denied” the allegation and sued Shafi for defamations claiming one billion rupees (approximately US$7 million) in damages.
After the case was dismissed, Zafar gave a teary interview on how the case has negatively affected his life.
“If anyone has earned the right to cry today, it’s thousands of survivors around us who were forced to watch a privileged man accused of sexual harassment and whine,” Shafi’s lawyer Nighat Dad said.
After Shafi’s allegations, more women came out against Zafar which also helped other women come out with their own stories against other men.
I am no hardcore Meesha Shafi fan. But Ali Zafar once came to LUMS for a concert. The concert was attended by a friend of mine. Ali's sexist remarks made her feel so uncomfortable and unsafe, she left the concert halfway. And this is not a girl who is easily scared. She works in— No (@Bluemagicboxes) April 29, 2019
Later, a journalist and a make-up artist also spoke out against Zafar’s inappropriate behavior.
While denying any allegations, Zafar said Shafi is accusing him to be famous.
“I can’t believe that anyone can come forward and accuse someone who’s innocent and decent, has worked hard for over two decades — solely on social media. Those who accused me leveled allegations for personal gains and then went to Canada, the truth is I was targeted for personal gains. I don’t know whether by doing this she wanted to become another Malala and get fame abroad,” the singer wrote on Twitter insinuating that Shafi wants to become Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl shot by Taliban for defending the right to education.
After receiving flak online, he deleted his previous tweet and wrote, “#Malala is a true warrior who stands for truth and justice having made great sacrifices. Meesha cannot become her by lying and running away from justice hiding behind fake profiles on social media.”
Zafar also received backlash from many on social media. He also promised to sue everyone on social media who stood with Meesha Shafi.
Ali Zafar's defense that he did not harass Meesha Shafi because she is not good looking is downright repugnant, disgusting and degrading. What a clown!— Baji Please (@BajiPlease) May 1, 2019
However, the case which gave hope to Pakistani women did not give Shafi a chance at a fair trial.
Dad said that Shafi seeks a “fair trial rights and guarantees which every litigant has under the law and the Constitution of Pakistan.”
Hence her legal team demanded a transfer to another court after accusing Judge Shakeel Ahmad, presiding over defamation case against Shafi, of showing prejudice against the victim.
Shafi had “challenged trial court’s decision to allow Ali Zafar to produce his witnesses in a certain manner and directing Meesha’s lawyers to cross-examine them immediately after the witnesses record their statement thereby denying Meesha’s lawyers a reasonable opportunity to cross-examine them properly,” Dad said.
Many also decried the media and social media trial Shafi was subjected to by Zafar’s followers.
The court issues @itsmeeshashafi a gag order preventing her from talking about publicly, but Ali is free to address the press & public and say whatever he wants?— Madeeha Syed (@madeehasyed) April 27, 2019
She can’t even respond to the claims he’s making using the same medium!
How is that fair?https://t.co/ojsdrL7MbL
“Like many of the other women who have been brave enough to go public with their allegations of harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men, Shafi has had to endure almost constant public condemnation and abuse,” Hassan Javid, an associate professor of political science at Lahore wrote in a local newspaper.
“As is all too often the case, when choosing who to believe, most automatically and uncritically endorse famous men over those who call them out, willfully ignoring the fact that making accusations of this kind usually results in the accusers having to bear tremendous personal and professional costs.”