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MEESHA-ALI CASE: THE FACTUAL TESTIMONY

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The State of Pakistan announced Pride Of Performance Award for internationally famed singer and actor Ali Zafar. While Zafar was congratulated and celebrated by all of his peers in the industry including various officeholders in Pakistan, some sections on social media objected stating that since he had been “accused” in a harassment case filed by Meesha Shafi on him two years ago therefore he is still an ‘alleged harasser’ therefore does not deserve the award.

However, the reality of the case between Ali Zafar and Meesha Shafi tells something else. For all intents and purposes, Mr Ali Zafar is not accountable to any court of law for any of the allegations that Ms Shafi had levelled against him on 19 April 2018 via her Twitter account. Quite on the contrary, it is Ms Shafi who has to appear before court for inquiry needed in the defamation case Zafar filed against her just after the accusatory tweet by singer.

Background of the Allegations

Meesha Shafi on April 19, 2018, in a post on her official twitter account accused Ali Zafar of sexual harassment to which Ali, on April 25, filed a defamation suit against Meesha of Rs1 billion in lower courts under the Defamation Ordinance 2002. As court proceedings went on in the defamation case, Mr. Zafar told the courts in his testimony, “Meesha had threatened him to ‘back off the Pepsi contract’ otherwise she would accuse him of harassment.” Mr. Zafar also said that he had reached out to her to speak if he had done anything untoward her and he would apologize but Meesha had not agreed to do this.

The legal status of Meesha Shafi’s Case Against Ali Zafar

Meesha’s lawyers had informed the media that the singer had filed a complaint against Zafar with the ombudsman under the sexual harassment at workplace ordinance 2010 on April 30 2018, claiming an employer-employee relationship with him. The Ombudsman rejected the complaint stating that matter did not fall under sexual harassment at the workplace as Meesha was hired independently and she was not bound by any formal contract.

Lahore High Court’s Verdict

Meesha’s legal team then took the matter to the Governor Punjab but in July, it was dismissed by the Governor on the same grounds upholding the decision of the Ombudsperson. After that Meesha appealed in Lahore High Court against Governor Punjab’s decision that rejected her plea against Ali Zafar. The High Court also terminated her case October last year after the ombudsman and the Governor saying that they were continuously trying to present her as his employee which was not true.

Though she has filed for appeal in Supreme Court but the Supreme Court still has to decide whether the appeal is worthy of hearing. Attached are some pages from a 34 page Lahore High Court verdict dismissing her case in favour of Ali Zafar.

Absence Of Meesha Shafi In Courts

It has also been noticed that during the period of more than two years, since the hearings started; Meesha Shafi has still not appeared in the case against her for her cross examination. She is currently in Canada. The case that should have ended within three months has been stretched to two years because Meesha Shafi has failed to appear before the courts as required by the legal procedures.

But What Exactly Happened?

Meesha Shafi stated that she was harassed during a jamming session. Among many eye witnesses during the hearings regarding this, it also includes two women who were present at the session. They have testified in favour of Zafar recording their evidence on oath that no such things did or could happen as they were all in near proximity.

One of the witnesses Aqsa Ali, posted on her social media in May 2019 that, “I was an integral part of the jamming session and there was no harassment or misconduct from anyone, Sab nay jam kiya (we all jammed) and then we went home.”

The other female witness Kanza Munir said in a social media post, “I stand witness to this particular ‘jam’ late last year that Meesha mentions in her interview with The News. The whole house band along with myself and another fellow female vocalist were present during this session and whatever interaction took place between the two was in front of at least 10 other people.”

There are seven other witnesses who stated that nothing of the sort happened.

Defamation Suit case Against Meesha Shafi

Meesha also filed for protection charges of Rs two billion against Ali Zafar in September last year for damaging her reputation and mental health as a result of levelling several false allegations by Zafar. However, it has also been given a stay by the court as that case cannot be heard until Zafar’s case of defamation is not decided.

Other Multiple Cases Against Ms Meesha Shafi

Ali Zafar’s legal team has filed many other case of civil and criminal in nature against Meesha Shafi and her accomplices who tried to defame Zafar on social media. Zafar claims all these accounts, including many fake accounts, were created to drive a narrative against him.

One of the accounts was made in early 2018 and was threatening his manager Taha Sadaqat that his client (Ali Zafar) would be dragged in court for harassment.

Zafar’s team has provided all proof to the FIA and the case is pending with its cybercrime branch.

What Cyber Crime Laws Say About Defamation on Social Media?

It is pertinent to be mentioned that Cyber Crime Laws state that, “whoever intentionally and publicly displays any information through any system which he knows to be false and intimidates or harms the reputation or privacy of a natural person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both”.

Are There Any Cases Against Ali Zafar?

As of now there is NO case against Zafar at the moment of any kind, rather there are cases against Meesha Shafi by Zafar alleging her to pay Rs 1 billion for damages that her false statement has caused him.

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Raaz-e-Ulfat Very Well Relates to a Pakistani Girl Living in a Strict Household

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Raaz-e-Ulfat is one of the latest dramas that has instantly struck a chord with masses owing to its relatable story-line and amazing performances by the remarkable cast. For the uninitiated, what exactly is the plot?

Putting it briefly, Mushk Iftikhar dreams of exploring the world outside her conservative house. She accomplishes her dream life to some extent when she comes across a friend in her university who introduces her to the colours of life. Though, little does Mushk know that Sehba secretly envies her simplicity and innocence and wishes to ruin her life.

Mushk’s life is somewhat a true depiction of most Pakistani girls belonging to strict households, and hence the show has become more interesting and connecting for the younger lot in Pakistan.

You can’t move a bone without your parent’s permission

Yes! Parent’s approval is mandatory in everything you do. You can’t study, sleep, eat, choose a career, go out, come late, etc. as per your own will. You can only breathe on your own… rest will depend on your parents’ will. Poor Mushk is in the same boat.

Privacy is a luxury you can never afford.

Mushk has got no private space in her house. She shares a room with her sister, like how it is usually in most households. Even when she is on a call with a friend, someone comes to inquire about the whereabouts of the caller. Privacy is indeed an out of the world thing for Mushk and others like her.

You have to be responsible like a grown-up, but you can never act like one.

Like Mushk, most Pakistani youth, particularly girls, are expected to grow up and take responsibilities but are not allowed to think that they have grown up in a literal way. Hence, you are always a bachi/ bacha who is bound to live by what your parents say.

Marriage is your ultimate goal in life

You dream about marriage and your khuwabon ka shehzada because that’s what your parents aim for you on completing your studies.

 

Modern Friends Are A Big No!

You cannot stay in touch with rich and modern friends as they are supposedly some spoilt kids who will definitely leave a bad influence on you.

 

 Dating someone is a big struggle!

Going out on a date is a real struggle yet you want to experience it despite knowing that if your parents find out, you are gone for life.

 

Since the very first episode, Raaz e Ulfat has turned every local TV drama trope on its head to offer a refreshingly new insight by subverting all the typical clichéd plot-lines of most local dramas, bringing forth such nuances that make the entire watching experience oh so relatable and befitting for people around us.

 

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Bunyad Foundation: Countering cerebral health issues with Mindcamp

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Mental health, despite holding paramount significance, is largely ignored in third world countries. With societal progression, the rise of the middle class, and a certain ‘tilt’ or ‘shift’ towards westernization, issues associated with mental health have started to exacerbate. According to recent studies, one of the biggest reasons behind suicidal tendencies or suicide itself is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and other traumas, different phobias, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and other related disorders.

If we travel a few years back in time, mental health issues were unheard of in Pakistan, in fact, someone found complaining or discussing a mental health issue was either given a particular look or called out for being ‘overly-sensitive’. But over the past few years, things have changed drastically. Now, there are more and more people suffering from mental disorders and psychiatric consultations have increased considerably over time, but even now, a certain amount of people hesitate to seek psychiatric consultation.

The onslaught of Covid-19 has further aggravated the situation throughout the country, with people reporting severe cases of depression and anxiety amid continued lockdowns. It is pertinent to mention here that, although, the issues mentioned are usually associated with urban areas, but the situation in rural areas of Pakistan isn’t much different. Alarmingly, unlike popular opinion, that villages are happy-go-lucky people, even the village dwellers are unknowingly harnessing several mental disorders in this modern age.

In order to facilitate the underprivileged living in less developed, far-flung areas, the Bunyad Foundation in collaboration with Mind organization, has started organizing bi-monthly mind-camps in Hafizabad. The purpose of these camps is to provide free-of-cost facilities to underserved communities. Under these free camps, patients are provided free consultation, medicine and an intervention plan; that too free of cost.

Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rahman, Project Lead and founder of Mind Camp Bunyad, told us that, ‘rural folk suffers from the same mental disorders as more privileged people but often the intensity is greater. Most of the people do not have access to basic medication for relief. Since a lot of unhealed psychiatric disorders can lead to physical ill-health, rural folk face a double burden. At Mindcamp Bunyad, our mission is to give suffering villagers a chance at peace and to ease their task in life’.

It took some time, the involvement of Key Opinion leaders and sustained efforts to convince people to seek help for mental disorders and now there’s better awareness about these issues. In addition, the organization has been carrying out these activities for the past 9 years, by engaging experienced and trained mental health professionals, even in extreme weather, just for the betterment of the society. However, now, the number of mental health professionals offering services has dwindled, in fact, the patient-to-doctor/mental health professional ratio is discouraging.

In order for the unabated and unrestricted continuation of these services, and in order for better, sustained facility provision to the patients; financial backing is imminent, without which such a great initiative gradually might have to retreat. To facilitate the imperative service, Bunyad Foundation is playing a major role.

Get in touch with them to see how you can help.

For donations, please donate here.

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Quiet Women: on Surrealism, Beauty and the Female Voice

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Lahore based poet, editor and columnist, Afshan Shafi launched her first full-length poetry collection, ‘Quiet Women’ last month. Stocked at Readings, the collection is a unique all-female collaboration featuring the illustrations of acclaimed artists, Samya Arif (Pakistan), Marjan Baniasadi (Iran) and Ishita Basu Mallik (India).

TS Eliot award nominee and winner of the Forward Prize for Poetry, Vahni Capildeo termed ‘Quiet Women’ as one of the ‘new poetries emerging in the twenty-first century which are characterized by a ferocity that spans yet exceeds love and outrage, involvement and observation’.

 

 

‘Quiet Women’ is an exploration of form and linguistic artistry, propelled by a sense of creative freedom espoused by the surrealists and abstract artists. Inspired by the creations of both Eastern and Western female artists and writers this book is a tribute to women and the power of their collective voices. Afshan Shafi has studied English Literature and International Relations at The University of Buckingham and Webster Graduate School London. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Blackbox Manifold, Poetry Wales, Flag + Void, Luna Luna, Clinic, 3 am magazine, Ala Champ Magazine, and others. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies, Smear (edited by Greta Bellamacina), The New River Press Yearbook and Halal if you hear me ( edited by Fatima Asghar and Salma Elhilo). Her debut chapbook of poems ‘Odd Circles’ was published by Readings (Pakistan) in 2014. For her work as a poet, she has been interviewed by Arte Tv (France) and Words Without Borders. As part of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan she has appeared on BBC (World), The Times (UK), and in The Economist’s culture magazine. She has also served as a poetry editor for “The Missing Slate” and is currently a senior contributing editor at Pakistan’s leading literary journal “The Aleph Review”. She also serves as an editor-in-chief for the online Pandemonium Journal, which is a platform for emerging creatives from Pakistan and abroad.

 

Inspiration to write this book: 

This is my first full-length collection and is a tribute to the panoply of female artists that continue to inspire me. From the creations of Iranian artist Farideh Lashai to the work of lesser-known poets like Veronica Forrest, there is a rich engagement with the work of these female trailblazers in ‘Quiet Women’. What makes the book different is its collaborative nature. Each artist I have collaborated with in ‘Quiet Women’ possesses something unique to their perspective. Samya Arif’s illustrations are defined by their bold and stylized detail. She thinks in an opulent manner. Marjan Baniasadi, hails from Iran and has studied at the NCA and her paintings are elegant, deeply intelligent and beautiful. Ishita Basu who lives in Calcutta, India, is a poet as well as an artist and there is such a yearning and melancholy to her creations. Their art complements my writing seamlessly in the book.

 

 

On how ‘Quiet Women’ came together

 

‘Quiet Women came together over a period of two years, where my poems were being frequently accepted by European magazines for publication. I decided to put together a collection of these poems with some newer verses with the intention to collaborate with artists for the final product. The titular poem of the collection ‘Quiet Women’ deals with the notion of female silence and the policing of a women’s language and her personal choices. For one reason or the other, this notion of ‘quietude’ had been drilled into me from an early age, and as I grew as a writer I started questioning all kinds of enforced silences, which in turn led me to critically examining all kinds of oppressive practices aimed at ‘containing’ the very agency of a woman. ‘Quiet Women’ as a book, functions for me as a bridge across a myriad number of fears; these verses are bridges across patriarchal structures, restrictive artistic ideologies, and perhaps purely existential concerns

 

On the collaboration with artists for ‘Quiet Women’

 

I would say that I have been a student of the Surrealists my whole life, as I have often been drawn to the interplay of artist mediums, in which they reveled. Surreal output has always been concerned with juxtapositions and techniques like ‘collage’ and ‘frottage’, and indulgence in hybridity. For example, Surrealist collaborations include films based on poems, in the way that the filmmaker Man Ray adapted poems by Robert Desnos to his medium. Since my poems are often initiated by visual ephemera, and my imaginative focus is on delineating these visuals (triggered of course by emotion or artistic curiosity), I found collaboration with these artists to be a natural progression. Each artist was sent the poem to illustrate without any instructions, the idea was for there to be a fluidity of connection, one derived purely by imaginative means, and for the artworks to be instinctual and primal.

 

Creative influences and the impact of Surrealism on my work

 

Each poem in ‘Quiet Women’ is a tribute to the marginalised, whether that figure be that of a woman or an artist or poet. Each poem aims to counter reality with the dream and to re-engineer the accepted image of the creative as ‘outlier’. Whether in terms of stylistic experimentation, influence or tribute, this book aims to upset normative modes of thought and glorify one’s creative faculty. The founder of Surrealism, Andre Breton, spoke much of how the imagination is seen as a threat to all dimensions of order, similarly, much of my work is concerned with consistently upending language, mass-perspective and received ideas.

 

On why I enjoy poetry as a genre and as my chosen form

 

A poet often writes a poem as a postscript to an emotion. ‘High tragedy’ or ‘wondrous joy’ need not compel the writing of verse, it could be a retained sense of childlike wonder for say an owl or the precise engineering of a pistol. I feel that I write primarily to escape a powerful inborn reticence. In that vein these words by the great James Joyce encapsulate perfectly the retaliatory bent of my mind as it stitches a sentence together; ‘poetry even when apparently most fantastic is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality’.

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