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Lahore High Court allows Meesha Shafi to pursue defamation suit against Pakistani singer-actor Ali Zafar post her sexual harassment allegations

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The Lahore High Court on Wednesday allowed Pakistani singer and actor Meesha Shafi to proceed with a civil defamation suit against Pakistani singer and actor Ali Zafar. The LHC set aside a ruling by  a sessions court wherein proceedings on her defamation suit against Zafar was suspended and allowed a civil revision petition.

Shafi and Zafar had been pursuing a legal fight against each other since 2018 when the former accused the latter of causing her sexual harassment on several occasions. Shafi’s statement had been supported by other survivors, all of whom had to go through a long uphill legal battle. Zafar had filed a Ra 1 billion defamation suit against Shafi, who also filed a subsequent suit against him.

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After Shafi’s statement, a handful of Pakistani women came forward sharing similar incidents of Zafar’s inappropriate behaviour. However, Shafi had to undergo immense backlash and was shamed continuously on social media. Following Shafi’s statements, Zafar had filed a criminal defamation suit against her and included eight other individuals in his complaint. He also proceeded to make statements against her in 2019 that prompted Shafi to file her civil defamation suit against him for mental torture and agony.

He had said, “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. Meesha cannot become her by lying and running away from justice, hiding behind fake profiles on social media.” His statement received much criticism for mentioning Malala Yousafzai.

Following the Lahore High Court judgement, Meesha tweeted her gratitude in a series of tweets. Leena Ghani, another survivor who also initiated civil defamation proceedings against Zafar and was a character witness for Shafi in her case and included among the eight people in the accused’s FIR told a portal, “At least this way he will go through what he put us through. We do realize there won’t be justice, even if there is it takes years for these cases to come to any conclusion. So the punishment is going to the courts… the whole process, it’s so frustrating, demeaning and exhausting that that itself is a punishment.”

She further spoke about noting that Zafar had ample opportunity to arm twist the law given his wealth and clout and said, “I decided in January 2021 to file my cases… he has defamed me on TV, on radio, everywhere — that has impacted not just my career but my life, my relationships. If his credibility is important and has to be defended, why not mine? Why am I not important?”

The Lahore High Court’s decision to allow Shafi to proceed with her defamation suit has presented a small avenue of justice for women and reverses the norm set by powerful men who are accused of sexual harassment and sets a precedent for survivors to challenge the attacks on their credibility and get justice in due course of time representing a significant moment in the case that sparked Pakistan’s #MeToo moment. Speaking about #MeToo, Ghani said, “It’s impossible for MeToo to die down. The only time MeToo is going to die out is when there’s no sexual harassment or violence against anyone. The thing about MeToo is that it holds everyone accountable. The fight has just started… we’re not saying that we’ve won the cases. All we’re saying is that at least now we will be heard and don’t have to wait for his defamation suit to conclude… it gives us an opportunity to fight back in some way.”

(Source: The Swaddle/Twitter)

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