By Aashika Ravi
While India’s #MeToo movement has been struggling with Dileep and the AMMA, our friends on the other side of the border are grappling with their own celebrity sexual predators.
On May 19th, Pakistani actor and singer Meesha Shafi accused popular Pakistani and Bollywood actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment. She didn’t go into the details, but she did put up a post on Twitter where she said, “I have 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.”
Ali Zafar took to Twitter to very vehemently deny the allegations, saying that he would take the legal route to disprove her allegations. “I categorically deny any and all claims of harassment lodged against me by Ms. Shafi,” he said. Of course, he had to ease us into it by first painting a picture of Ali Zafar The Family Man, who is “the father of a young girl and a young boy, a husband to a wife and a son to a mother.” Unfortunately, most sexual predators can attest to having at least one of these relationships. So you’re not suddenly excused from any shadow of doubt, Mr. Zafar.
— Ali Zafar (@AliZafarsays) April 19, 2018
Over the next few months, Shafi received a lot of sympathy and support from actors in the industry, including Osman Khalid Butt, Mahira Khan and even Rose McGowan. Two more women, a make-up artist and a journalist, spoke out about Zafar’s inappropriate behaviour.
Many people also came out in support of Zafar, including a female co-star, Maya Ali, who said she “didn’t get that vibe” from him.
Yesterday, a new twist involving music streaming site Patari emerged, one that does neither Zafar’s Family Man image, nor Patari any favours. An unnamed source from within Patari shared a screenshot of communication within the company with Pakistani media outlet Images, which shows Zafar requesting that a newly released song by Faris Shafi, Meesha Shafi’s brother, be moved to the end of the New Releases section on the site, because he saw it as “Patari supporting Meesha”. This was then done.
First off, we wonder if Zafar’s ego is more fragile than a Pringle, that he worries a music hosting site promoting his accuser’s brother is in any way connected to him. Or perhaps it’s just an overly skittish conscience. Funny, because we recall him saying he had “nothing to hide” in his original statement.
Patari on its part, falls into the classic trap of protecting and enabling sexual predators at worst and enabling powerful egomaniacts at best. Patari has already been in the news for the former once this week. On July 2nd, six employees of the organisation resigned because the former CEO Khalid Bajwa, who was forced to resign from his post amid sexual harassment allegations, was still involved in the decision-making and operations of the company.
This of course immediately prompted folks to point out the hypocrisy of Patari still promoting music from Ali Zafar’s upcoming movie, Teefa in Trouble. Teefa in Trouble is slated for release on the 20th this month.
We wish this was an isolated response to the #MeToo movement in Pakistan, but the Pakistani media seems to care as little as ours does that Zafar is a suspected sexual predator. In the run up to his newest movie Teefa in Trouble, the media is lapping up everything he has to offer without exception, and buying into his nice guy act.
To quote this brilliant Medium post’s headline, “When are we going to cancel Ali Zafar for good?”