LAHORE: On Monday night pop star Meesha Shafi appeared on a talk show with TV anchor Shahzeb Khanzada to speak about the sexual harassment allegations she had made against fellow musician Ali Zafar in April 2018 and the social media storm that followed.
In the days before Shafi’s TV appearance, Ali Zafar held an impromptu press conference outside court and featured on several TV shows himself, saying Shafi had accused him of harassment for personal gains. He also stated that he and his family were suffering due to the claims Shafi made against him.
In a subsequent interview with TV host Shahzad Iqbal, Zafar tearfully reiterated his position, adding that Shafi has attempted to destroy his career by running a social media campaign against him.
In her conversation with talk show host Shahzeb Khanzada, Shafi spoke about the details of her harassment claim, saying that after the alleged incident took place she was confronted with a situation where she would have to work with Zafar in a professional setting, which she did not want to do.
She says she had initially tried to resolve the matter without bringing it into the public eye.”I told [Zafar’s] representatives that I don’t want a controversy and I don’t want to make this public. I asked his representatives if he could step down from the project.”
Shafi said that when she contacted Zafar’s representatives to discuss the matter they also asked whether she would accept an apology. Shafi said she communicated that she could consider it.”The response I received from him was ‘come to my house and speak to me’,” says Shafi.
Shafi also spoke about what she said prompted her to ultimately take to social media with her complaint: “When I spoke up to people about what happened, and when nothing was resolved I felt great frustration… I wondered why are we teaching our children to confide in us if they are abused if I myself, at a senior position in my career, confided in people around me and nothing happened.”
Shafi also addressed Zafar’s claims that the harassment claim filed against him had been dismissed. She said: “When I went to the ombudsperson with my complaint they said to me: ‘You are not his employee and he is not your employer.'” Shafi continued: “I have never been anyone’s employee. I haven’t done anything besides being self-employed. And there are many women like me, who are self-employed. If we are taking steps to combat sexual harassment, why are sexual harassment laws not available to self-employed women?”
Shafi says that since she made her harassment claim in 2018, she and her family have faced cyber bullying, slander and character assassination.
“Everyone knows what the backlash against me has been. It’s happening in public. And I’ve endured it because I know that change doesn’t happen easily,” Shafi said.
Also on Monday, Shafi’s legal team released a statement in response to claims made by Zafar and his legal team in the preceding days, saying: “In the sexual harassment case filed by Meesha, Ali Zafar has not been exonerated by any forum and the matter is pending in the Lahore High Court.”
The statement further clarified: “Ali Zafar’s statement that Meesha made sexual harassment allegations against him in order to get international fame and so as to get Canadian immigration is false and defamatory. His insinuation that Meesha wants to get recognition like Malala is equally condemnable as it appears that Ali Zafar believes that Malala made up a false story to get fame and immigration of a foreign country. Malala – the world’s youngest Nobel laureate and Pakistan’s pride is an inspiration to millions of young girls, women and men across the world and it is shameful what Ali Zafar thinks about her.”
“The attacks against Meesha and other women who have spoken up are being perpetrated for a singular purpose, and that is to silence everyone speaking about sexual harassment. Meesha is now more determined than ever to seek justice for herself through the legal system of this country, and will not be silenced no matter what Ali Zafar attempts to throw her way,” the statement added.