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Fact-Check: Ali Zafar Has Not Been Cleared Of Sexual Harassment Charges

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The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday dismissed musician Meesha Shafi’s petition against Punjab ombudsperson’s decision to set aside her case of sexual harassment over a technicality, failing to set a precedent for the protection of women working in informal sectors.

Despite the fact that a detailed judgment was not released during the hearing on Friday, the judge verbally dismissed Meesha’s petition, thereby agreeing with the Punjab ombudsperson’s original decision wherein she said she did not have the jurisdiction to hear the harassment complaint owing to the fact that there was no formal employee-employer relationship between Meesha and her alleged sexual harasser, Ali Zafar.

During a hearing more than a week ago, LHC judge Justice Shahid Karim had noted in his remarks that there was no apparent — or prima facie — legal error in the Punjab ombudsperson’s decision to set aside Meesha’s complaint of sexual harassment. Both sides’ lawyers were present in that session.

At that time, Meesha’s lawyers had said the ombudsperson and Punjab governor had unlawfully dismissed her complaint and that a definition of workplace, according to the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, which is aimed to safeguard women, was not only limited to the women who are employed at 9-5 corporate jobs.

Contrary to what is being stated by Ali Zafar’s supporters on social media, the LHC did not exonerate Zafar, whom Meesha had accused of sexual harassment on more than one occasion back in April 2018, of the charges of sexual harassment. There has been no decision either by the LHC or the Punjab ombudsperson’s office on the merits/allegations of the sexual harassment case.

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The narrative being built on social media that Ali Zafar was exonerated by the LHC, therefore, is not true and are indicative of fake news aimed to strengthen Zafar’s PR-created persona of a decent person and further vilify strong, brave women who take a stand in Pakistan’s patriarchal society.

It is also noteworthy that the development on Friday pertains to Meesha’s petition against Punjab ombudsperson’s decision to set aside her complaint. One of her lawyers had earlier responded to a question asked frequently by many as to why the singer was not appearing in the court; the lawyer had clarified that Meesha has not been called by the court as of yet and will go once court will direct her too.

The above is a clarification presented by Meesha Shafi’s lawyer in response to smear campaigns such as #FaceTheCourtMeesha used for character assassination of women who challenge power structures and the status quo.

 

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