A timeline of the Meesha Shafi-Ali Zafar controversy

A timeline of the Meesha Shafi-Ali Zafar controversy

We mark down what's happened in the week since Meesha accused Ali Zafar of sexual harassment
Updated 12 May, 2018

Last week, Meesha Shafi's sexual harassment allegations against Ali Zafar stirred up a storm in the entertainment industry and beyond. Many have hailed Meesha's statement as a major milestone in Pakistan's own #MeToo movement.

What has the response to Meesha's allegations been like? While many are still silent on the matter, some stars have come out in support of the Chori Chori singer, and some are supporting Ali. Things are quickly spiraling out of control as Ali has filed a defamation case against Meesha.

Here's a timeline of what's happened so far since Meesha came forward with the allegation.

April 19th

4.00pm: Meesha Shafi released a statement on Twitter alleging that Ali Zafar sexually harassed her.

Although the singer didn't reveal details of the incident, she claimed that she had "been subjected, on more than one occasion, to sexual harassment of a physical nature at the hands of a colleague from my industry: Ali Zafar."

Having broken the ice, Meesha asked other women from the industry to step forward with their own stories of sexual harassment.

Her mother Saba Hamid, stood in support of her daughter's decision to speak publicly. "I am totally behind my daughter and I support her. I’m hurt and angry and I feel very strongly about this. That this can happen with someone like Meesha who is so empowered is a rude awakening."

Also read: Meesha Shafi accuses Ali Zafar of sexual harassment, encourages women to break ‘culture of silence’

7.00pm: Ali Zafar released a statement, responding to Meesha's allegations

The Channo singer categorically denied "any and all claims of harassment lodged against me by Ms Shafi".

He added that he intends to take the matter to court.

8.30pm: Osman Khalid Butt was the first celebrity to speak up about the issue.

Hours after the allegation, OKB stepped forward and offered clear and unflinching support to Meesha Shafi. He was the first to share her #MeToo story from within the entertainment industry.

Urwa Hocane also lent support to Meesha that evening.

Also read: So OKB is the only celebrity who has something to say about the #MeToo movement in Pakistan

10.00pm: Maya Ali stood by her co-star Ali Zafar

Ali Zafar's Teefa In Trouble co-star came out in defense of the singer and released a statement on Instagram saying that she never got that kind of "vibe" from him during their film's shoot.

11.00pm: More women step forward to accuse Ali Zafar of sexual harassment

Meesha's statement prompted more women to speak out about their horror stories; many of these allege they have been harassed by Ali Zafar.

Make-up artist/painter Leena Ghani lauded the singer for sharing her story and narrated a similar incident. "I have known Ali, he has on several occasions crossed boundaries of what is appropriate behaviour between friends. His behaviour displays a clear lack of respect for women. Inappropriate contact, groping, sexual comments should not fall in the grey area between humour and indecency."

Also read: More women step forward to accuse Ali Zafar of sexual harassment

Journalist Maham Javaid described an encounter her cousin had with the singer, when he tried to kiss her and pull her into a restroom with him.

April 20th

7.00pm: Ayesha Omar talks about her #MeToo story

Another celeb, Ayesha Omar, found the courage to speak up about being harassed in the industry.

Speaking at Geo News show Lekin, the actor revealed that she has been a victim of "serious harassment" by a member of the industry. She added that she doesn't have the strength to talk about it right now.

"I hope I'm as brave as Meesha Shafi one day," she said. "The thing is that it's when people like Meesha come forward, that other people draw the strength to tell their stories."

8.00pm: Momina asks Ali Zafar to apologise as allegations of sexual harassment grow

In a surprise move, Momina Mustehsan released a statement which read: "I too have been a subject of harassment, and this issue is bigger than just Ali Zafar."

"This is about the relationship of trust that men take for granted with women. Very often, as we can see, women are violated by the very men they know, trust and often work with."

Though the letter is open to interpretation, she concluded by directly addressing Ali Zafar and wrote: "BUT I would want to ask @AliZafarSays one question: do you think you have EVER, knowingly or unknowingly, violated a woman in any way or form? If you have - because no one is an angel - I request you to acknowledge your fault, apologize unconditionally, learn from the mistakes, and become a better human being."

April 21st

In an interview with Instep, Meesha delved into details of the harassment incidents and why she chose to speak up.

“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.”

"I have started talking to people and divulging my experience. I’m finding it hard on my conscious [sic] 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," she said in the interview.

April 22nd

Ali Zafar's bandmates lent him their support, claiming that not only have they never experienced any harassment from the singer and find it hard to believe that he would ever do such a thing.

The band mates have also claimed they were present during the jam session Meesha mentioned in her interview with Instep (although Meesha never specified which session it was) and that they witnessed nothing of the sort.

Their statements were not well received on social media; people pointed out that just because it doesn't happen to them it doesn't mean it can't happen to anyone.

April 23rd

Rumours circulate about Ali Zafar sending a legal notice to Meesha Shafi.

According to the rumours, Ali was demanding that Meesha apologise and take down her tweet accusing him of harassment or he will file a Rs100 million defamation suit against her.

April 24th

Meesha's lawyers confirm that she is yet to receive a legal notice but Ali's manager have said that they plan on sending a notice to her.

Meesha, meanwhile, posted on social media that she has appointed Mohammed Ahmed Pansota and Nighat Dad as her representatives for all legal matters pertaining to her harassment claim against Ali Zafar.

April 25th

Ali Zafar's legal counsel has sent singer Meesha Shafi a Rs100 crore defamation notice for the sexual harassment allegations she made against him on Twitter last week.

Also read: Ali Zafar sends Rs100 crore legal notice to Meesha Shafi

In the legal notice, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Ali has demanded that Meesha deletes the tweet that contains her allegations against him and issues an apology on Twitter, failing which he will file a Rs100 crore defamation suit against her.

Speaking to Images, Meesha's lawyer, Barrister Muhammad Ahmad Pansota shared: "We have received the notice and are examining its contents. The contents of Meesha's statements with regard to Ali Zafar are based in truth, and therefore we dispel this notice."

April 27th

Without taking names, Sanam Saeed expressed her support for Meesha Shafi and the #MeToo movement in a post on Instagram.

This statement, though late, helps add context to the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movement in the country when the integrity of the victim is always in question.

"It doesn't take an evil person, non-family person or an overtly, sleazy, ill-mannered person to cross the line. It can be a good friend, relative, colleague, boss, family person, "decent" person, successful, loved and admired person who falters," she writes, adding that "Essentially, the victim is keeping the aggressor's dignity, allowing them to get away with it and try their luck elsewhere. Making this all the reason to speak up and break the cycle."

May 4th

UN Women Pakistan issued a statement in support of victims of sexual harassment on Twitter, saying: "There must be consequences for those who choose to abuse and not to comply... We say to the women who are speaking up: we hear you, we are with you."

Though the organisation did not explicitly name Meesha Shafi, it did appear to be referencing the allegations made against Ali Zafar by Meesha.

UN Women Pakistan has previously featured Pakistani entertainers (including Meesha Shafi) like Momina Mustehsan in its campaigns.

May 12

Meesha Shafi's lawyers responded to the legal notice sent by Ali Zafar, saying: "We categorically deny all allegations, assertions and/or insinuation made in your notice against our client, all of which are legally and factually incorrect...The Notice is hence rejected it in its entirety."

Read: Meesha Shafi’s lawyers respond to Ali Zafar’s legal notice, ask him to issue an apology

Shafi's legal counsel also asked that Zafar issue an apology for "the wrongs he committed against women" and that it is a demand which will not impact Shafi's right to initiate civil or criminal proceedings in the future.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.