Three weeks after the start of Pakistan’s floods that have affected 20 million people homeless and killed 2,000, the Miss Pakistan World pageant is set to take place in Toronto this weekend.
Many are dercrying the decision to hold the event, arguing the timing is inappropriate and insensitive to those suffering. Pakistani Assembly Member and leading women’s rights activist Dr. Amna Buttar argued, “The organizers’ actions are so far from reality that it shows they have no connection to Pakistani life.” Former Miss Pakistan World Naomi Zaman agrees the pageant should be postponed, reasoning, “At this moment, people are traumatized due to the flood disaster. We as Pakistanis abroad should all be focusing on helping the victims.” She added, “I’m hoping there will be some type of fundraising going on at the pageant.”
However the pageant’s president Sonia Ahmed believes it should go on, explaining, “I feel very sad about the disaster but, as a Pakistani, it’s my right and responsibility to bring my country out in this world in a lighter image…my duty as a Pakistani is to show the world that Pakistanis are not terrorists, honor killers or fundamentalists.”
Organizers also point out that it is nearly impossible to cancel or postpone the event at this point. Women of Pakistani descent from around the world have traveled to Toronto to prepare, and all arrangements are in place. “People have paychecks depending on this event,” Ahmed noted.
The Miss Pakistani World pageant, held every year in Toronto, is open to the entire Pakistani diaspora. Contestants parade in both Western and Pakistani gowns, perform Western and South Asian dances and answer questions about Pakistani politics, with the swimsuit competition having been eliminated several years ago. Although the organization received applications from many women in Pakistan, Ahmed explained the complicated visa process prevented any of them from competing.