LAHORE: A hearing of the Rs1-billion defamation case against musician-model Meesha Shafi was adjourned to August 8 on Tuesday after a no-show by Ali Zafar’s witnesses and the singer not being in the country.
During the hearing, Additional Session Judge Amjad Ali Shah also summoned Zafar to the court on August 8 in order for Shafi’s legal team to cross-examine him after his statement was recorded earlier this month.
Zafar, through his legal team, maintained that Shafi had levelled false allegations against him and asserted that the claims of sexual harassment had affected his fame. He further reiterated his request to the court to direct Shafi to pay him damages worth Rs1 billion.
As of now, 12 of the 24 witnesses listed by Zafar’s team, including the defendant, have recorded their statements in the court.
Earlier, a July 3 hearing had been adjourned to July 15 but neither the singer nor any of his witnesses showed up on Monday. His team had claimed that the judge did not appear.
The July 15 hearing, therefore, did not take place and Judge Shah on Tuesday adjourned it to August 8.
On Monday, Shafi’s lawyer, Saqib Jillani, had told Geo.tv that the defamation trial was set for a hearing the same day as reported earlier but that Zafar’s team did not produce any more witnesses in the court. He had said Zafar’s legal team had informed earlier that although the singer would be travelling, they would present more witnesses.
The cross-examination of Zafar was scheduled for later this month because of the defendant’s trip abroad, Jillani had added, noting at the time that they were consequently hoping for the hearing to be adjourned to the end of this month.
On the other hand, a representative of Zafar’s legal team, Hasham, had said Monday the judge was not present in the court and that a new date would be provided on Tuesday.
In the last hearing on July 3, Zafar had claimed that he supported the #MeToo movement but that it was being misused against him. He also spoke about the four other friends who levelled accusations of sexual harassment against him.
He had appeared in the court to complete recording his statement in a hearing presided by Additional Session Judge Amjad Ali Shah, wherein he had presented what he termed was “further evidence of a criminal conspiracy against him for a common agenda”.
Demanding that Shafi and the four other friends also be summoned, he had maintained that the claims of sexual harassment against him had no truth whatsoever. His legal team submitted various documents in his defence.
Zafar had told the court: “Meesha Shafi’s claim in her court testimony that the other women who came forward are unrelated is a complete lie. Our findings exposed that they were deeply interlinked much before the allegations.
“The common link seems to be Nighat Dad. They were all either working with or for her,” he added.
It is noteworthy to mention that Nighat Dad, a women’s rights lawyer, is part of the legal team representing Shafi. She had earlier clarified that her client “has not been called by the court as of yet” but “will go once court will direct her to” appear.
Zafar had mentioned three other women in his testimony, terming one’s claims to be a “lie” and another’s to be an “unsubstantiated accusation”.
He had further stressed that all women who made allegations against Zafar were “connected to Nighat Dad”, “actively working for Nighat Dad’s foundation” or were “seen regularly communicating on Twitter prior to the accusation”.
“I was the target of a plan to launch the Metoo movement in Pakistan. […] All this was done as part of a bigger plan to launch herself into prominence and for other gains which will reveal themselves in time in the court of law,” he had said.
“All real and fake accounts have also been presented to the FIA for investigation,” he had added, also alleging that Dad “was involved in this crime herself”.
Later, while speaking to media outside the court, Zafar had said: “This movement is a well-respected movement at the international level. [However,] if they use a pure cause for their personal gain, then this battle is not just mine … this battle is not just men’s … but it’s more of a women’s battle.”
Shafi, however, had slammed the attacks Zafar launched on the #MeToo survivors and her legal team in the July 3 hearing. She had clarified that other women who accused Zafar of sexual harassment or misconduct “did so of their own free will”.
Terming Zafar’s attempts to discredit survivors of sexual trauma as “nothing new”, she had written: “These attacks and conspiracy theories, albeit very creative, are baseless and going after all the women standing up for women is an entirely predictable age old silencing tactic.”
The musician expressed gratitude to her legal team — including women’s rights activist and lawyer Nighat Dad, Ahmad Pansota, Saqib Jillani, and Hina Jilani “for being on the right side of history tirelessly with integrity”.
Shafi, known for being an unapologetic feminist, had noted that it was “extremely underhanded and desperate” to try and malign her lawyers.
“Conspiracy theories are so creative, if only the same creativity was being channeled in an artist’s work, one wouldn’t have to claim damages over losing work. Pffffft,” she had written.
The “Mein” singer had bashed misogynists who cry “foreign funding, foreign agenda” whenever brave women decide to speak up about being harassed, violated, humiliated or feeling unsafe.
“Also, pertinent to mention in light of recent attacks on my lawyers and others who are speaking up, this was not a conspiracy,” she had said, urging people to help change the country.
“Enough is enough. Get with the program. Learn about consent and accountability. Safe spaces. Freedom of speech. Gender equality and respect!
“Together we can,” she vowed.