A case that caught the public’s attention and has been viewed as one of the catalysts of the start of the MeToo movement in Pakistan, Meesha Shafi’s complaint against Ali Zafar was rejected by the Lahore High Court (LHC) with a detailed judgement as to why this case doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010. The allegations have polarised the fan base of both stars, with many on Zafar’s side using this judgment as a testament of his innocence.

But the fact that the Lahore High Court (LHC) has dismissed Meesha Shafi’s petition thrice, does not imply what Ali Zafar and his supporters would have you believe. To be clear, the court has not pronounced Zafar guilty, but it has not deemed him innocent either – the case was dismissed on technical grounds before the innocence of Zafar was even questioned. Even though Ali Zafar and his fans claim otherwise, it is important to set the record straight, because those trolling Shafi online are using the judgement as a means to point out a lack of evidence, which again, is utterly false.

The simple fact is we do not know what the evidence shows, but the proceedings do tell us of the glaring holes in the harassment law. Under the law, there are a few preconditions to meet if a case of harassment is to be proven. The first and most problematic of these is the law’s categorisation of ‘employer’, ‘employee’ and ‘organisation’. With the first two of these not clearly defined in the contracts of the two superstars, and the last apparently not fitting the non-traditional mode of employment for performing artists, this case only reveals that the harassment law needs revisiting, if all women are not protected from harassment at the workplace, which is the principle behind this law.

If the judge presiding over the case deems that Shafi and Zafar are not traditional employees, did he for a minute consider what avenue Shafi must take to file a harassment claim against Zafar? Under the judgement of the court, Shafi’s harassment petition is not maintainable, but that also means that the judge is indirectly denying access to freelance workers and independent contractors from ever seeking out legal assistance in case of harassment, because only traditional employer-employee relations and organisations are covered uner the ambit of the law. This needs to change.