accusations, counter-attacks, celebrity clubs and much more…

  • 28 Apr - 04 May, 2018
  • Mag The Weekly
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How it all began

Meesha Shafi shook twitter world on a hot day of the preceding month when she accused Ali Zafar of sexual harassment. The 36-year-old took to Twitter to share her experience, stating: “I have been subjected to sexual harassment of a physical nature at the hands of a colleague from my industry: Ali Zafar,” and added, “This happened to be despite the fact that I am an empowered, accomplished woman who is known for speaking her mind!”The mother-of-two also added that this has been a very traumatic experience for her and her family. She further expressed, “Ali is someone I have known for many years and someone I shared the stage with. I feel betrayed by his behaviour and his attitude and I know that I am not alone.”

In response to the accusation, Ali stated, “I categorically deny any and all claims of harassment lodged against me by Ms. Shafi. I intend to take this through the courts of law and to address this professionally and seriously, rather than to lodge any allegations here.” To conclude, the Channo singer said that he is a firm believer that truth trumps all. Currently, Ali is preparing to sue Meesha for false accusation and defamation.

Victim count increases

Since Meesha’s shocking revelation, more women came forward to share the uncomfortable and disturbing experiences they have had with Ali in the past. Make-up artist/painter Leena Ghani tweeted in support of the Dasht-e-Tanhaai singer, thanking her for her bravery and shared her #MeToo story:

"[Ali Zafar's] behaviour shows a clear lack of respect for women. Inappropriate contact, groping, sexual comments should not fall in the grey area between humour and indecency,” she said.

A Twitter user by the name of Sofi alleged that a volunteer was molested by Ali during a fundraising event in Washington DC. Accusing him of misconduct during the Shaukat Khanum US tour, she stated that the organisers were informed of the incident but they still went ahead with the rest of the shows. However, Naila Khan, the Associate Director Marketing of the hospital and a part of the organising committee, rebutted the account, saying, “It is a complete lie because the Washington DC event was the last one in the series. There was no event after that.”

The story

In an interview, Meesha elaborated on the two incidents where Ali allegedly behaved inappropriately with her. She said that when it happened the first time, she "didn't react and just left". She also told her husband to not do anything about it, as she and Ali were both public figures. The second incident, she claimed, happened in a jam room. "I was jamming with my band in Lahore and the organisers insisted that he was trying to get in touch. It started turning into a thing, and I was being seen as difficult or a diva. I was avoiding him. I was asked to jam, figure out songs, scale and it happened while we were jamming," Meesha explained.

The alternate side

So as the story goes, Meesha has claimed on record that the second episode happened when the two singers were jamming together for a show. The jam session in question took place at Ali's residence on December 21 last year, and according to a source, "This was in the presence of her manager, Ali's manager, the event planner and nine band members." A number of women have come forward claiming they were present when Ali and Meesha were jamming. They said that the two maintained a very professional relationship.

One of Ali’s band members, Aqsa Ali posted on her Instagram, “As a woman and a musician, I have to talk about this issue. Meesha said that her conscience doesn’t allow her to say quiet – so does mine.” She added that she has traveled with the Channo singer and seen girls “throw themselves” at him, but he has always made sure to be friendly and not make anyone uncomfortable. The post further said, “At this particular jam session, I was present as a vocalist. As a woman, if I would have felt that there was any sort of misconduct, I would be the first person to take a stand.” She also mentioned that everyone jammed for about an hour and Ali and Meesha were not left alone – even for a moment.

Here it would be apt to share with our readers the tweet by Meesha Shafi that she posted on her twitter page the following morning after this very jamming session and she did not mention any such thing regarding harassment. In fact, everything seemed to be quite hunky-dory between the two stars.

Two days after the jam, on December 23, the concert was held. In an interview, Meesha stated that she shared the stage with Ali only because it was about business and she didn’t want reasons like these to affect work.

However,"Meesha performed with Ali on stage on her own free will," as reported by India Today. The report quoted an insider claiming that "she was hired to perform independently of Ali, both did their separate performances first and only came together at the end to do a few songs. Her income or hiring for this show would have in no way been affected had she said she would not like to perform next to Ali". The source added that the event planner, Jalal Salahuddin can confirm this. After the concert, Meesha even posted a picture from the event. She not only happily posed with Ali at events, but also shared pictures with him on her social media accounts. In the same interview, Meesha explained the pictures, saying, "I have run into him, our pictures have been taken at social gatherings etc because it's easier to tell yourself to move on in whatever way you can, you try."

The source also claimed that even after knowing about the alleged harassment, Meesha's husband Mahmood Rahman "worked with Ali Zafar as a sound engineer for Ali Zafar's international concert on his own free will". The source also cited the instance of Meesha's former manager, Fahad Rehman, who went on record to say that Meesha "has the capability to blackmail and malign one's reputation".

Supporters remain divided

Meesha has received support from #MeToo campaigner Rose McGowan, as well. Extending her support to Shafi, the Hollywood actress wrote on Twitter: 'A heroine for our times. I stand with Meesha Shafi’. McGowan was the first to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and since many women across the world have come forward to tell their stories, giving momentum to the #MeToo movement. Acknowledging McGowan's support, Meesha indirectly thanked her as well.

After a long awkward silence, celebrities, like Osman Khalid Butt, Armeena Rana Khan, Fakhre Alam, Urwa Hocane, Momina Mustehsan, Reham Khan, finally started coming out with their own statements – some in support of Meesha while other vouching for Ali’s moral character, while some just hoping that this is a misunderstanding that gets resolved in a civilised manner and advising people not to jump to conclusions and let the law handle things. Osman Khalid Butt applauded Meesha for finally coming out with her story, through multiple stories. Maya Ali has vouched for co-star Ali’s character, as she has experienced while filming their upcoming film together. Zerka Tahir, a social worker, has also came to Ali's defence. "Ali Zafar is supporting a community of dancing girls and musicians to fight sexual harassment and sexual abuse in its vilest form. He and his wife provide the financial and moral support to run a centre where such families and children are catered to," she wrote, adding, "Let him be and let him work and free these women and children from sexual harassment."

One of the posts that have created a stir is Momina’s where she has asked Ali to apologise. In a statement released on her social media accounts, the Afreen singer said: "I, too, have been a subject of harassment, and this issue is bigger than just Ali Zafar." She added, "This is about the relationship of trust that men take for granted with women," and that, “I personally stand to lose much more than I will ever gain, BUT this cause is greater than any one man or woman." She further shared, "I hope all the men reading this agree that harassment of any form is NOT OKAY." She then directly addressed Ali Zafar, saying: "BUT I would want to ask @AliZafarSays one question: do you think you have EVER, knowingly or unknowingly, violated a woman in any way or form? If you have – because no one is an angel – I request you to acknowledge your fault, apologise unconditionally, learn from the mistakes, and become a better human being."