Hours after singer and actor Meesha Shafi alleged Ali Zafar sexually harassed her on multiple occasions, different statements regarding the two celebrities surfaced. While more women took to Twitter with similar allegations against Ali, a former professional acquaintance of Meesha shared his experience of working with the singer.
Fahad Rehman, who has claimed to be acquainted with the two celebrities before they became public figures, accused Meesha of blackmailing him during their professional acquaintanceship.
“I have known both Meesha and Ali for a very long time. Before both were even famous. I have seen their stardom grow over the course of almost two decades,” wrote Rehman.
“I have had the misfortune of working with Meesha. Other than her terrible temper and tantrums, on one occasion, I was blackmailed by her 5 minutes before a show to give up my share of the commission my agency was making, otherwise she will not perform. After returning from the trip back to Pakistan and firing her as a client, I was made aware that Meesha was telling her friends and colleagues that I stole her performance tee. A few other incidents occurred that I don’t wish to get into but you get the gist. This was in 2008-9.”
“Now I don’t know what happened between Ali and her, but what I do know is that she has the capability to blackmail and malign one’s reputation. Without hard evidence, I would take everything she says with a ton of salt,” he said.
Some women, while lending support to the Reluctant Fundamentalist actor and Coke Studio singer, tweeted saying she was not alone and they had faced similar experiences.
Make-up artist Leena Ghani thanked Shafi for her bravery for speaking up and shared her #MeToo story saying, “Seeing Meesha’s courage it’s impossible for me to not speak now, not only in support of her but also to say she’s not alone.”
“In the many years I have known Ali, he has on several occasions crossed boundaries of what is appropriate behaviour between friends.”
She continued, “His behaviour displays a clear lack of respect for women. Inappropriate contact, groping, sexual comments should not fall in the grey area between humour and indecency. Comments that would make your skin crawl and make you feel objectified are not to be reduced to ‘a joke’ such behaviours can leave women feeling embarrassed, small and reduced to the level of entertainment at the hands of a woman. In such cases, women like myself run from a situation and hope to God you never cross paths again. And when by some misfortune you do, you hide from him. Hoping that his sleazy eyes and hands don’t find you again. His hands don’t make their way up and down your waist or hold you too tight while you desperately try to wiggle and run,” she wrote.
Leena continued, “Today I speak out because of recent events between Meesha and Ali and today I have to find the courage to say she isn’t and has not been alone.”
Journalist Maham Javaid also described an encounter “from many many years ago, when Ali Zafar tried to kiss” her cousin and pull her “into a restroom with him”.
She added, “This was on a boat on the way to a party at the Yacht Club between 2004-2005. Why don’t I remember the date? Because this is what’s crazy: in those days such sexual harassment was such a non-issue and simultaneously such a taboo that we hardly spoke about it.”
Maham thanked Shafi for “reminding us that our stories matter”.
Blogger Humna Raza also recounted when Ali inappropriately touched her at a public event.
— Ali Zafar (@AliZafarsays) April 19, 2018
On Thursday evening, Shafi sparked Pakistan’s #MeToo moment when she took to Twitter to allege Ali Zafar sexually harassed her on more than one occasion.
This is the first incident of a Pakistani celebrity alleging a colleague harassed her.
“Sharing this because I believe that by speaking out about my own experience of sexual harassment, I will break the culture of silence that permeates through our society. It is not easy to speak out. But it is harder to stay silent. My conscience will not allow it anymore #MeToo,” Shafi tweeted.
In her statement posted on Twitter, the singer-cum-actor wrote, “As a woman, a public figure and a mother, I have always felt strongly about using my voice to encourage and support our youth who look up to me especially girls, who dream of carving their own path in Pakistan.”
However, Ali categorically denied Shafi’s claims of harassment against him.
“I intend to take this through the courts of law and to address this professionally and seriously rather than to lodge any allegations here,” he tweeted.
Although Pakistan’s entertainment industry has remained largely mum on the issue, Osman Khalid Butt and Urwa Hocane have tweeted in support of Shafi.
Meanwhile, actor Maya Ali posted on Instagram saying she respects Ali and “we shouldn’t judge anyone’s character” until the truth comes out.
“I’m not here to say who is wrong and who is right or who did what and who didn’t… Let’s say, I haven’t known him for long, but I have been working with him since once year, we shot our film in Lahore and then we were all together in Poland to shoot the rest of the film and I never ever got any kind of that vibe from him,” Maya said.
— Humna Raza (@HumnaRaza) April 19, 2018
She added, “When we were on set or in any restaurant with the whole team he would always make sure that he was sharing these moments with her… I am not judging anyone nor giving any clarification on anyone’s behalf, and we can’t judge the one side of a book… I respect this man @ali_zafar and want the truth to come out, until then we shouldn’t judge anyone’s character.”-Web Desk