Singer-cum-actor Meesha Shafi’s counsels have rejected a legal notice sent to her by Ali Zafar over sexual harassment allegations against him.
“At the very outset, we categorically deny all allegations, assertions and/or insinuation expressly or implicitly made in your notice against our client, all of which are legally and factually incorrect,” the reply read.
Shafi’s legal team which comprises Hina Jillani, Saqib Jillani, Nighat Dad and Muhammad Ahmad Pansota further wrote, “Your client is urged to withdraw the unlawful and false notice and issue an apology immediately for the wrongs he has committed against women.”
The reply came in response to a legal notice sent by Zafar’s counsel asking the singer-cum-actor to delete her tweet alleging harassment and issue an apology on Twitter, failing which he will file a Rs1 billion defamation case against her.
In response to the notice, Shafi’s legal team said, “Your assertion that our client had mala fide motives actually belittles and undermines the #MeToo campaign which has helped hundreds of women all over the world share their harrowing experiences of sexual harassment and hold their abusers to some form of accountability. Our client’s decision to share her experience publicly, knowing full well the risks she was exposing her family and herself to, is extremely brave and path-breaking.”
Listing down Meesha’s achievements so far and her family background, the reply added, “Most of all, our client is a happy wife of a wonderful husband and a proud mother of two beautiful children.”
“That our client has suffered sexual harassment of a physical nature at the hands of your client on more than one occasion, including at the workplace where both, our client and your client, were professionally engaged. She was shocked, traumatised and extremely distressed continuously which affected her professional work. She reported the incidents of sexual harassment to a number of people including the organisers of events where our client was asked to work with your client.”
“She has been trying to avoid your client as much as possible after the repeated incidents of sexual harassment. For the sake of her dignity and self-respect and that of many thousands of women in this industry, our client decided that silence is no longer an option, hence she reported the acts of sexual harassment committed by Your Client on social media on 19th April 2018 which are correct and do not in any manner constitute defamation,” it further read.
Rejecting Zafar’s tweet refuting Shafi’s allegations against him, the reply read, “That our client denies and refutes in the strongest possible terms the allegation that she has defamed your client. In this regard, your client’s tweet is rejected being an attempt to conceal and hide his predatory behaviour. Your assertion that our client posted the tweet claiming sexual harassment by your client as part of some grand scheme due to jealousy is patently false and unfounded. Our client has absolutely no mala fide intention, ulterior motives or any other agenda against your client other than addressing his unlawful actions. Your client is being condemned and exposed for what he has done against many women including our client.”
It continued, “Our client is an accomplished and successful artist who enjoys a huge fan following. She and her family are known to support women rights and human rights and progressive values. She has nothing to gain out of falsely accusing your client. In fact, after opening up about the sexual harassment which our client has faced, it is our cient who has been subjected to the worst form of slander, stereotyping, character assassination and vitriol in electronic. print and social media instigated by your client.”
“The statements of our client are true and she has every right to expose these publicly in the interest of her own protection, right to dignity and freedom to pursue her career and public life and to fulfill her professional responsibilities in an enabling environment without fear and anxiety. It is pertinent to mention here that many women have spontaneously come forward and reported similar incidents against your client at the risk of being slandered, bullied and threatened,” it further noted.
Referring to stories of other women who came forward with allegations against Zafar, the reply stated, “That after our client’s tweet, the stories shared by other brave women show that it is not our client alone whose dignity has been violated by the shameful conduct of your client. It is pertinent to note that many celebrities and prominent figures from the entertainment industry and prominent figures of all walks of life have spoken out against sexual harassment and in suppo11 of our client and the #MeToo movement.”
Further stating that Shafi’s allegations are the ‘truth’ and in “public interest”, the reply read, “That in the light of the above, our client rejects your notice for defamation dated 24th April 2018 in its entirety.”
“That whatever our client has reported has been independently corroborated by personal accounts of many other women that have been abused and harassed by your client. Our client is happy and proud today that as a result of her speaking, at the very least, your client will think twice before harassing any woman again.”
In its last point, the reply stated, “That a vicious campaign comprising rumors, allegations, threats and slander against our client has been initiated on behalf of your client, which has not only targeted our client but her family and her two young children, forcing her to deactivate all her social media accounts except Twitter. Please note that our client reserves the right to initiate appropriate civil and criminal proceedings against your client and others who have resorted to libel, slander and other harassment against our client.”
Last month, in the first high-profile #MeToo incident in Pakistan, Meesha had taken to Twitter to speak up about her experience stating “my conscience does not allow me to be silent anymore.”
“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 on April 19.
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 had categorically denied Shafi’s claims of harassment on Twitter and sent her a legal notice.-Web Desk