Pakistani beauty pageant aims to ‘celebrate womanhood’

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Sonia Ahmed, President, Miss Pakistan World says, "It's been 11 years since we first started Miss Pakistan World, and believe me, the clashes continue to date.'' She was at the Chandigarh Press Club today afternoon. Here from Canada on a personal visit, Ahmed says she thought of a representation from Pakistan for the Miss World Contest to simply "change the perspective of women and others in Pakistan."

Karachi-born Ahmed, a chartered accountant by profession, adds that the move was highly criticised by the Pakistani community in USA, UK and Canada. While women in the entertainment industry saw participation in the pageant as a platform for progress in the industry, feminists in political parties opposed it strongly by terming it a move against their culture.

"In fact, all the Miss Pakistans who took part in the Miss World contest, never returned to Pakistan for fear of being ostracised. Entries have gone down over the past few years drastically, simply because the girls fear it will create issues and risks for them in the country, notes Ahmed. So, as a confidence-building measure, Ahmed introduced the Mr Pakistan contest, and is happy with the response. "There has been almost a 50 per cent increase in the applications for the contest,'' she said.

Fashion shows in Pakistan are few and far in between and are never publicised. "It's a way to not give women the freedom to or express themselves,'' said Ahmed.

When asked whether fashion contests and beauty pageants the only way to 'empower' women or give them a voice, she said, "No it's just a way to make people understand that everyone must have a freedom to wear and look what they want, and choosing films and television as a career is not going against culture, ethics or tradition. And that we don't need to be ashamed of these choices." Ahmed's take on the furore over Pakistani actor Veena Malik posing nude for a magazine cover is, "Morphed or not, I think Veena is a bold girl, and is not ashamed of her choices or afraid of making a mark in the Indian film industry in spite of having so many Pakistani groups against her.'' Ahmed is looking forward to a new season of the Pakistan Miss World in August next year.

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