January 3rd, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
Renowned singer Meesha Shafi apprised the court during her cross-examination on Monday that she suffered a considerable amount of financial loss after she opted to speak out in 2018 against alleged harassment at the hands of his co-singer, Ali Zafar.
Shafi appeared before additional session judge Lahore, Khan Mahmood, and was subjected to over three-hour-long cross-examination in a defamation case filed against her by Ali Zafar.
Shafi, in a tweet in 2018 accused Ali Zafar of sexually harassing her on more than one occasion. On Monday she told the court she had posted the tweet to protect herself.She told the court that in the year 2018, she earned more than Rs 25 million and in the next year, the figure dropped to a little over Rs 10 million. She further said that in the years 2020 and 2021, she almost made 3.5 million per annum, which was far less than her average income during the last five years.
Meesha also rejected Zafar’s lawyer Ali Raza’s conjecture that she could have suffered financial losses because of the Covid19 outbreak. “The downfall in my income was most drastic after I made the tweet against Ali Zafar and it was well before the Covid”, she clarified.
She also told the court, the biggest chunk of his income was coming from a contract she made with a beverage brand, Pepsi to participate in a music competition show as a judge. Shafi remained part of the show for three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019.
She was asked by the defence counsel as to why did she sign a contract for a much smaller amount in 2019 as compared to the previous year, to which the singer said that she agreed to a pay cut as she had nothing else lined up. “Ali Zafar enjoyed record-breaking revenue since my tweet”
In reply to a question about Ali Zafar’s financial losses after her tweet, Shafi said that as per her knowledge, Zafar didn’t suffer any losses since 2018. “Both financially and reputation-wise, the plaintiff [Ali Zafar] has enjoyed record-breaking revenue for his film Teefa in Trouble as boasted by his own production (team). Additionally, he has received awards and accolades since my tweet”, Shafi said.
She further mentioned that Prime Minister Imran Khan named Ali Zafar as an ambassador of Namal Knowledge city (founded and headed by PM himself) and the government of Pakistan bestowed him with the Pride of Performance award, that too after she accused him of harassment.
“Moreover, his last released song almost gained 49 million views in a span of three months None of these facts reflects that the plaintiff has suffered any loss after her tweet,” Shafi added.Changing the line of questioning from Shafi’s finances, advocate Ali Raza quizzed the defendant about her 2018 tweet against his client.
“I spoke out to protect myself”
On a question regarding her intention to speak out against Ali Zafar, Shafi said that Pepsi had brought in Ali Zafar as a co-judge after Atif Aslam left the show. She further told the court that Pepsi insisted her to record a show with Ali Zafar and she felt that she was pushed to work with the person she was not comfortable working with. “I tried to resolve the matter privately but when all my efforts were in vain, I spoke out through my tweet.”
When asked that whether she made a tweet to stop recording with Ali Zafar, to which Shafi said “I tweeted to protect myself and my intention was to help myself as no one was helping me.”
Shafi again told the court that she only resorted to tweeting her story only after her effort to resolve the matters privately remained unsuccessful.
On plaintiff counsel’s question, Shafi also explained what resolving the matter privately actually meant.
“In my mind, the private resolution would look like an apology or acknowledgment of the past behaviour so that I could commit to my work feeling safe or not to bring him in my space and make it unsafe for me.”
The court then adjourned the hearing till Tuesday, January 4.
My case can take society toward enlightenment: Shafi
Speaking to the reporters outside the courtroom, Shafi said she will fight this case till its logical conclusion. “The difficulties I have faced since speaking out, are due to a big cause and InshaAllah, I will give some kind of gift to all the survivors, women, and children through my struggle.”
Shafi added that her case is the first instance where a woman has stood against harassment and she is hopeful that society will get a lot of things to think about from this case and perhaps we can go towards a more enlightened society.