THE nation once again finds itself embroiled in controversy, this time with the Miss Universe-Pakistan beauty pageant recently held in the Maldives. An event which is essentially aimed at celebrating empowerment and beauty has been turned into a focal point of criticism, occupying more space in public discourse than necessary. Although Erica Robin from Karachi has been lauded by many for winning, the contest itself has invited outrage on social media by some of the more conservative voices demanding to know how it is the young woman can be seen to represent the country in such a contest and how the government has sanctioned the event. There was even news of the prime minister asking the Foreign Office to look into the matter since a Dubai-based firm is the organiser.
In a nation grappling with economic hardship, social injustice and educational disparities, among other significant concerns, the extent of the uproar seems misplaced. While ethical contemplation of events is necessary, it is high time we learned to distinguish between matters of actual import and controversies that are relatively inconsequential. The pageant stands as a platform for young Pakistani women to boldly articulate their dreams and showcases their capabilities, beauty and grace, elements that should be fostered rather than censured. The voices raised against the participation by Pakistani women in such events would do better to highlight what must be done to tackle the monumental challenges staring us right in the face rather than engage in debates over events that hold little sway over our collective future. Let us not allow this hue and cry to eclipse the core issues that are begging our attention. The alarm bells must ring louder to denounce poverty, illiteracy, gender inequality and health crises. We advocate for a shift in focus, for energy put into solution-driven dialogue that encourages action rather than such frivolous reactionary discourse.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2023