July 27th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
A sessions court allowed Hamna Zubair, a woman journalist and a witness for the defence in the Ali Zafar defamation suit, to present her tweets on cases of sexual harassment and violence against women to rebut claims that she deliberately singled out Zafar as part of an alleged smear campaign.
In her cross-examination in the case on Monday, July 26, Zubair requested the court to submit tweets she had authored as evidence against allegations by Zafar’s counsel that she had not been as expressive about any other case of sexual harassment.
The court turned down objections of Zafar’s counsel in this regard. Zubair stated she had tweeted on the 2016 honour-killing of Qandeel Baloch, allegations of sexual misconduct against Patari co-founder Khalid Bajwa which emerged in 2018, radio-host and mental health professional Dr.Faisal Mamsa’s disrespectful remarks against women during his radio show Analyze It in 2017, and filmmaker Jamshed “Jami” Mahmood’s 2019 allegations of sexual assault against Dawn CEO Hameed Haroon.
Zubair said Zafar had filed a complaint against her for writing one-sided articles, but she never received any notice from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in response to the complaint. The journalist rejected the contention that she wrongly deposed in the case because of the FIA complaint. She also rejected claims of being part of a conspiracy to defame the singer-actor via the #MeToo movement or striving to gain international recognition.
She maintained that several other women also approached her with sexual harassment allegations against Zafar.
“It is incorrect to say that I have lied in my statement that other women contacted me after the defendant’s allegations and I am not disclosing their names due to their privacy concerns. Whether or not someone went public after contacting me, I still cannot take their names in court without their permission as they contacted me privately and I would like to respect the boundaries of my profession,” she told the court.
In the cross-examination, Zubair stated that Shafi took the liability of publishing her claims herself in a public domain, which meant that her claims/allegations were newsworthy.
“This is why her allegations were deemed fit for publication by myself and other media houses probably,” she said.
The journalist rebutted the claim that she pre-planned the news story by already taking Shafi’s statement.
“However, I never committed to [Meesha Shafi] of publishing anything and it was only published when it became news in the public domain,” Zubair stated.
The journalist stated that she did not wait for Zafar’s response before publishing her article because a breaking news story could not be held up for too long.
“I would like to clarify that this is normal procedure in breaking news and I fulfilled my responsibility by contacting the plaintiff before publishing the article and I included his statement in the article as soon as it was sent to me,” she said.
The journalist stated sexual harassers and sexual harassment rarely takes place when people are watching closely while answering questions put forth by Zafar’s counsel that two eyewitnesses, identified as Kanza and Aqsa, had told the court that they did not witness any harassment at the alleged third incident.
Zubair said it was correct that following Shafi’s Twitter call-out against Zafar, people knew that he had been accused of sexual harassment and some of them might have believed that he was a harasser. Following the conclusion of the cross-examination, the court adjourned further hearing till September 9.