Asia

Meesha Shafi: Pakistan actress says pop star Ali Zafar harassed her

Composite picture of Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar Image copyright Getty Images/AFP
Image caption Meesha Shafi (left) has acted in films including The Reluctant Fundamentalist, while Ali Zafar is well known as an actor and singer

A leading Pakistani actress has accused a popular singer of sexual harassment, in what is thought to be the first #MeToo moment in conservative Pakistan.

Meesha Shafi, who has acted in films such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist, says music star Ali Zafar subjected her to "harassment of a physical nature".

Mr Zafar says he "categorically" denies the claims and will take legal action.

The allegations have caused a stir on social media, with many other women sharing their views about harassment.

The #MeToo movement, sparked by Hollywood's Harvey Weinstein scandal, has led to a wider push against sexual harassment in many countries around the world.

Pakistan's society is deeply patriarchal, and non-governmental organisations say large numbers of women face violence or sexual harassment.

What are the allegations?

Ms Shafi made the allegations on Thursday, writing on Twitter that there were "some issues that are very difficult to speak about as a woman, especially sexual harassment".

"My conscience does not allow me to be silent anymore," she said. "If this can happen to someone like me, an established artist, then it can happen to any young woman and that concerns me gravely."

She said she had suffered sexual harassment from Mr Zafar "on more than one occasion", describing it as "an extremely traumatic experience".

"Ali is someone I have known for many years and someone who I have shared the stage with," she said. "I feel betrayed by his behaviour and his attitude."

Mr Zafar, who has won multiple awards for his music and starred in several Bollywood films, said in response: "I categorically deny any and all claims of harassment lodged against me by Ms Shafi. I intend to take this through the courts of law."

He added that he was "deeply aware and in support of the global #MeToo movement and what it stands for".

"I have nothing to hide," he said. "Silent is absolutely not an option."

The allegations have caused a stir on Pakistani social media, with Ms Shafi's name trending on Twitter.

Many women spoke up in support of Ms Shafi.

More on this story