16th December 2021
By Asra Haque
Lahore Additional Sessions Court Judge Khan Mehmood adjourned today’s hearing into actor and musician Ali Zafar’s defamation suit against former colleague Meesha Shafi, as the lawyers for both parties were busy presenting their arguments in the Lahore High Court in a parallel case pertaining to the quashing of san FIR lodged by Zafar against Shafi with the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA).
At the trial court, the defendant was summoned for a cross examination after her plea for an exemption from regularly appearing in-person for hearings had been turned down. Shafi had requested to record her statements via video-link due to difficulties in travel, including soaring airfares and the possibility of COVID-19 restrictions impeding her return to Canada.
The Coke Studio singer presented herself before court today for her cross examination, however it was deferred till December 22 due to the non-availability of either side’s counsels. Meanwhile, the hearing in the FIA complaint case has been adjourned till December 20.
Speaking to media outside the sessions courtroom, Shafi stated that she immediately appeared before the judge upon receiving her summons after her plea for exemption was turned down. She reiterated that this was the first time she had been called to court.
“I stand with the truth,” she said, adding that she was ready to attend every hearing and that hopefully the outcome of this case would be a good one. The actor also criticized media for running a false narrative that she was not appearing for hearings.
“This is the first time I have been called to court and I showed up,” she said. “Whatever [the media] reports is not factual.”
In April 2018, Shafi tweeted that she had been sexually harassed by Zafar, while the latter categorically denied the accusation.
“This happened to me despite the fact that I am an empowered, accomplished woman who is known for speaking her mind,” Shafi wrote in a tweet that is widely regarded to have jumpstarted the #MeToo movement in Pakistan, and formally pressed charges against Zafar in July 2018. In January 2021, makeup artist, feminist activist and Aurat March Lahore organizer Leena Ghani also filed a Rs. 500 million suit against Zafar over alleged sexual harassment and defamation.
In December of last year, Zafar filed a case under section 20 (offences against the dignity of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and section 109 (punishment of abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code against Shafi and seven others including Leena Ghani, Iffat Omer, Fariha Ayub, Faizan Raza, Haseem-uz-Zaman, Ali Gul Pir, and Maham Javed, for allegedly running a vilification campaign against him on social media.