The stories concerning accusations of sexual harassment by Ali Zafar have been so disheartening to hear about, this weekend.
As a pre-teen, I guess I would’ve called Ali Zafar my first crush; I was close to infatuated with him and his songs. I can recall the times when the week’s Top Music Charts list would be played on TV while I sat watching, fingers crossed that Ali Zafar’s Sajania would bypass Atif Aslam’s Doori for the #1 spot. I would be practically gleeful when it did, and bitter over Atif Aslam when it didn’t. It’s cringe-worthy, but that’s the way my pre-teen mind functioned, back then.
So, of course, coming across this news over the weekend made my heart swell up a bit. Of course, nothing has been proven and I do understand the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ statement, but I came across a particular tweet which highlighted on how more Pakistanis were accusing Meesha Shafi of lying than even considering the possibility that Ali Zafar may in fact be the one lying. The tweet ended with the sentence that, you know what, if women are liars until proven truthful (aka until the man says so), then Ali Zafar should be held guilty until proven innocent…no? I don’t know about most people, but that makes an enormous amount of sense to me, at least.
Regardless of whether he is guilty or not, the prevalence of this kinda of behaviour (and acceptance of behaviours) within our industry shouldn’t be surprising, I guess. And I think it’s also safe to assume that more women will start opening up about this in Pakistan, and I really look forward to that. If you know me, I may have often enough joked about how Pakistani boys and men are the worst of the lot. It’s not a joke, really – I’ve never genuinely been proven wrong of this, so to me, it’s more of a fact I’d rather joke about than be constantly questioned about by hurt egos and hypocritical denials. I’ve just always felt like the mix of religion and culture, specifically in Pakistan, have introduced some very…unfortunate byproducts ingrained within its population – even if its more subconscious than apparent.
Ali Zafar is yet another representation of that. Not even Ali Zafar, specifically. Any other Pakistani man like him can probably take his place, in the case that (although it doesn’t seem to be going in his favour as of right now) he really is proven innocent.
Of course, my being disheartened over Ali Zafar’s accusations because he, as an artist or a person meant something to me as a pre-teen doesn’t mean that he’s responsible for my feelings in any way per se. It’s more along the lines of…if the people of your country have given you the honour of representing them as a nation, that automatically translates to them putting their trust in you as well, in the hopes that you would use the power you now hold respectably, instead of taking advantage of it and, in turn, advantage of those who looked up to you.
I’m all for men (or women, if that were the case) having their careers and their lives torn apart once their true behaviours are uncovered. I can’t wait to watch the Claire Underwood-headed season of House of Cards. I can’t wait for Ali Zafar to be held responsible for his actions, and I eagerly await for others in the Pakistani entertainment industry to speak up, as well as in more smaller, domestic households in Pakistan. I eagerly await for the day where conversation about this can open up more within our society, for the day when an actress isn’t castigated for smoking cigarettes merely because of her gender, for the day when films such as Padman aren’t banned in Pakistan due to the ‘taboo’ topic.
I wait for the day when Pakistanis begin speaking the truth instead of putting up walls of pretense and superficiality. I wait for the day when women are considered as being even close to the level of men in Pakistan. And until then, I’ll do my part in being who I hope other women from my country have the possibility and more importantly, freedom of being…somewhere down the line.