Victims of sexual harassment should report the matter at appropriate forum, not social media, says Ali Zafar

Updated September 19, 2019

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Ali Zafar has accused Meesha Shafi of defaming her by accusing him of sexual harassment. — Dawn.com/File
Ali Zafar has accused Meesha Shafi of defaming her by accusing him of sexual harassment. — Dawn.com/File

Singer Ali Zafar on Thursday, during the hearing of a defamation case that he has filed against fellow artist Meesha Shafi, said that women who have been subjected to harassment "should report the matter at appropriate forum which [...] is not social media".

Shafi had last year accused Zafar of harassing her "on more than two occasions". In response, Zafar had filed a defamation suit against her, saying that her "baseless and unfounded" accusations had allegedly tarnished his reputation.

In today's hearing, Zafar was being cross-questioned by Shafi's lawyer Saqib Jillani in a sessions court, where the case is being heard.

Shafi's counsel asked if a woman, who has been sexually harassed, should "ignore it or report the incident", to which Zafar responded: "I strongly believe that if a woman is sexually harassed and she feels strongly about [it], she should report the matter at appropriate forum which, in my opinion, is not social media."

During the hearing, Jillani asked Zafar if he thought all cases of sexual harassment were reported, to which the latter responded in the negative.

"I am not a woman, I do not know why women don't report sexual harassment cases," he added.

"If a woman, who is a victim [of sexual harassment], reports a case belatedly, is she doing the right thing?" asked Jillani.

"I don't know, God knows why the victim is reporting the case after a lapse of time," Zafar said.

When asked what Shafi's possible motive could be, without naming the singer, he said people can have all sorts of motives, including "hunger for fame, money and respect", but said since Shafi had all these, in her case it could have been "jealousy and personal vendetta and competitiveness".

When further questioned, Zafar said: "When a woman is friends with you as well as your wife, she can complain about such a matter in private."

He said that he would have "apologised to Shafi in person if he had harassed her".

Despite the prosecution's objections, Shafi's counsel played the clip of the jamming session during which she had alleged Zafar had sexually harassed her. Zafar confirmed that the video was of the session and that it had been shared on his Twitter account as well. Jillani pointed out that contrary to Zafar's earlier claims, the drummer at the back of the stage was facing the wall, instead of the singers.

While speaking in court, Zafar admitted that his movie Teefa in Trouble — that was released after Shafi levelled allegations against him — had raked in Rs500 million and had been nominated in the Best Film category of the Lux Style Awards "despite propaganda" against it. He further said that he had also received viewers' choice award for best film actor.

Zafar also told the court that he had been invited in fundraising event by the Akhuwat Foundation where he was hailed as a "role model".

He, however, insisted that Pepsi had cancelled two of his contracts due to Shafi's allegations.

"Pepsi told me that the public will sympathise with the woman," he said.

The court adjourned the hearing until September 20.

The same court also heard a defamation appeal filed by Shafi yesterday and sent a notice to Zafar, demanding a response to the suit by October 7.