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Found it hard on my conscience to stay silent, Meesha Shafi opens up on harassment

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Found it hard on my conscience to stay silent, Meesha Shafi opens up on harassment

Found it hard on my conscience to stay silent, Meesha Shafi opens up on harassment

Singer and actor Meesha Shafi, who sparked nationwide controversy after alleging that Ali Zafar sexually harassed her on multiple occasions, opened up on being harassed in an interview with Instep.

The singer shared that she spoke up about the incident now as she was ready and found it hard on her conscience to stay silent.

“The first and foremost reason [for breaking silence] is that I’m ready. I have started talking to people and divulging my experience. I’m finding it hard on my conscience to stay silent any longer than this because I’m seeing such brave girls and women speaking up – not just around the world – but here as well.

I have to say, by the way, I salute these girls,” she added, referring to the girls who spoke being harassed by former Patari CEO Khalid Bajwa.

“It’s not easy. They are not public figures and I think it can be harder for me, in a way, but it’s hard for everyone. The more I think about it, the more I realise that if I don’t go public, nothing will change. It was eating away at me.”

As a mother of two, a boy and a girl, she remarked that she has been telling her children to speak up if anyone touches them inappropriately or makes them feel uncomfortable.

So, when caught in the same situation as an adult and a powerful one at that, staying quiet about her own story began to gnaw at her. “I am telling my children how important it is to speak up, so it was getting difficult for me to stay silent knowing that it was not accidental or subtle.” The singer ultimately took to Twitter to share her story.

‘First time it happened, I didn’t react’

Meesha, who has acted in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, recalled that the harassment wasn’t about a hug that went on for too long, a greeting that went on for a little too long or a lingering handshake.

“Women who feel that that’s inappropriate and speak-up and feel harassed, that is absolutely their right and not to take away anything from them in any way but it was more than that and that people need to know.

“The first time it happened, I didn’t react and just left,” Meesha recalled. “I told my husband but also asked him to not react; I’m a public figure and so is he [Ali Zafar]. My thought process was who I am and who he is and what that’s going to lead to. Being ready to talk was far off because it had just happened. I buried it.”

But it happened again late last year or last quarter of last year. And in both instances, they were not alone. The second time it happened in a jam room.

“I got booked for a concert,” she says. She and Ali Zafar were billed to perform on the same concert. When asked why she said agreed to perform with him, she said: “It is my bread and butter, it was work coming my way.”

It eventually resulted in them preparing a song that they could perform together. “I was jamming with my band in Lahore and the organisers insisted that he was trying to get in touch. It started turning into a thing, and I was being seen as difficult or a diva, I got such feelers. I was avoiding him. I was asked to jam, figure out songs, scale and it happened while we were jamming.”

‘Liberating’ experience

The singer remarked that ever since she went public with the story a burden has been lifted.

“It is liberating, it’s empowering and it’s not the end of the world. I only felt hesitant as long as I hadn’t told anyone. The more people I tell, the more power I feel. I do. That has been my direct experience in the case. I’ve done the thing I feared and I’ve taken the leap of faith. And you know what, it’s okay,” she added.

Ali Zafar denies allegations

Responding to the allegations, renowned singer, actor and composer Ali Zafar categorically denied all claims of harassment lodged against him by singer Meesha Shafi.

The Coke Studio singer began his official statement by saying “he is the father of a young girl and a young boy, a husband to a wife and a son to a mother. I am a man that has stood up for myself, my family, my colleagues and friends countless times in the face of slander, defamation and general unkindness.”

Ali Zafar in his tweet further said: “I intend to take this through the courts of law and to address this professionally and seriously rather than to lodge any allegations here.”