Tuesday Dec 10, 2019
LAHORE: Musician Meesha Shafi on Monday appeared at the court to record her statement in the Rs1-billion defamation case filed by the accused against her, saying the allegations of sexual harassment against singer Ali Zafar were made as a "last resort" and "not part of a larger plan or conspiracy".
During a more than three-hour-long hearing presided by Additional Session Judge Amjad Ali Shah, Meesha reiterated her claim that Zafar had harassed on more than one occasion. Her mother, Saba Hamid, was also present at the hearing.
In her statement, she stressed that she never wished to go public with the allegations but had no choice when it became clear that she might have to work with Zafar despite having told the management. She said was very embarrassed and shocked.
Underscoring that she had the right to a dignified workplace and an harassment-free environment, Meesha told the court that she tried her best to resolve the matter internally without going public.
In a detailed statement during the hearing, Meesha told the court that the post she had made on Twitter was neither part of a larger plan nor a conspiracy, rather a last resort when all other platforms had failed.
Also read: Meesha Shafi records statement with FIA
According to her, the first incident of sexual harassment happened at the residence of Zafar's father-in-law when the accused harassed her while greeting her. The musician told the court that she immediately told her husband about the sexual harassment incident, due to which he got very angry and wanted to confront Zafar then and there.
However, she stopped him from doing so as she feared it may have led to a scene.
She maintained that she continued meeting Zafar and his wife on social occasions and decided to try to forgive and forget. Regardless, she never told his wife about it out of respect for, she added.
After the second incident of sexual harassment, she decided to reduce interactions with him. The third one occurred in a jamming room at Zafar's house, whereafter she decided never to work with him again, she added.
She also showed various of her WhatsApp messages in the court and clarified that she did not know any of the women who shared similar experiences of sexual harassment after she spoke up publicly.
Speaking outside the court, she told media that Zafar filed the defamation case to intimidate and pressurise her and explained that she had borne a significant monetary loss after speaking publicly about the sexual harassment allegations.
"I bore the losses and [was] defamed and, as a woman, I suffered great damage to my reputation, as well as financial loss. It was detrimental to my mental health too," she said in a statement later. "I shared my experience to protect myself and others who are struggling to break their silence."
During the hearing, Meesha's lawyers, Nighat Dad and Saqib Jillani, and Zafar's legal council, Hisham Ahmed Khan, were present. Justice Amjad Ali Shah adjourned the hearing, scheduling the next one on December 20, when further witnesses would be called.
In the proceedings of Zafar's defamation against Meesha so far, three witnesses — including her mother Saba Hamid, manager Syed Farhan Ali, and actor Iffat Omar — have recorded their statements so far.
On November 21, Ali, her manager, had recorded his statement, saying he was present at the jam session but did not personally witness the alleged sexual harassment.
"I was not focusing on the plaintiff or the defendant. I did go out of the room a couple of times so cannot confirm whether or not any harassment happened," he had added, clarifying his previous remarks.
However, the witness had confirmed that after the session was over, Shafi had told him that Zafar made her uncomfortable and "was not a good person", and even that she hated him.
"After the show was over, she further told me that in any future show or concert, she would not work with Zafar," he had added.
Zafar has denied the accusations and filed a defamation case against the singer and actress. The case has had multiple hearings over the past year.
Separately, Meesha has also filed a defamation suit worth Rs2 billion against Zafar for allegedly making false remarks on media that were damaging to her reputation and goodwill.