Meesha Ali Zafar-1615801108699
Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar Image Credit: Supplied and

Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi could face up to three years in jail time if she loses the defamation case filed by actor-singer Ali Zafar.

The case, which stems from a sexual misconduct claim that reportedly occurred nearly three years ago, was pivotal in sparking the #MeToo movement in Pakistan. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) cybercrime wing in Pakistan booked Shafi and eight others for their alleged involvement in a smear campaign against Zafar in September last year.

Last week, a judicial magistrate summoned Shafi and another person in a criminal case that has been registered under the cybercrime law following a complaint by Zafar. While the hearing has been adjourned until March 27, the First Information Report that has been filed under section 20 of the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act and section 109 of Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly for running a smear campaign against the complainant on social media, which carries a jail term of up to three years.

In April 2018, as part of the #MeToo movement, Shafi accused Zafar of sexual harassment, stating that he had groped her on numerous occasions, but specified an incident that occurred in December 2017 at a recording studio in his home. Zafar denied the claims and the two have been embroiled in a legal battle since, with the actor-singer filing a defamation suit in a district court in Lahore against singer Shafi claiming damages of Rs1 billion (Dh30.2 million).

In July 2018, when questioned by Gulf News, Zafar denied the claims once again. “Whenever there is trouble in your life ... there’s a simple rule and fact. Believe in God and have faith. Believe that truth always prevails. When you are on the right side of the truth and when you are on the right side of history, nothing can hurt you,” Zafar said.

Shafi has already lost a series of legal battles against Zafar following a complaint she had filed to the Governor of Punjab under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010. Her appeal was rejected on the basis that she “wasn’t an actual employee at the time the harassment allegedly took place”, and was in no way bound by a formal contract.

Shafi is currently in Canada and is looking to attend court proceedings through a video link. However, because she returns to Pakistan for her work, the criminal case does pose a risk of arrest, Saqib Jillani, a lawyer for her, told Wall Street Journal.