What wears high heels, shimmering tiaras and could help solidify Indo-Pakistan ties? The answer — the Miss Pakistan pageant, slated to be held this April in Chandigarh. This is the first time that the event will take place in the subcontinent since its inception in Canada nine years ago.
“When we first announced the pageant, we got hate mails filled with every kind of dirty abuse,” reveals Sonia Ahmed, who launched Miss Pakistan at the age of 21. “If we were in Pakistan, the reactions would have been violent. We were protected because the constitution of Canada doesn’t allow people to do anything more than protest,” she says, adding that her strongest supporters at the time were sponsors from the Indian community.
Ahmed admits the biggest bone of contention for the opponents of Miss Pakistan pageant is its bikini round. Ask if it would be better to avoid including it, and she says, “We had the bikini round up till 2007, and after that, even I felt this shouldn’t matter anymore. But when you go to international pageants, you have to wear bikinis, which puts our girls at a disadvantage. So we make them sign documents saying they’ll wear a swimsuit in other pageants.”
While they’ve been barred from participating in Miss Universe and Miss World since they do not actually hold the competition on Pakistani soil, a contestant recently won the Miss Friendship title at the Miss Earth pageant in the Philippines. “It was a big deal for us because Harleen Kaur from India didn’t win anything,” Ahmed says. Given the opposition from her home country, Ahmed has abandoned hopes of ever visiting Pakistan. “The government can’t ensure our safety, so I’m paranoid about going back.”