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TORONTO: Seattle-based 23-year-old beauty Shanzay Hayat, who won the Miss Pakistan World 2013 crown in Toronto in August, says she is trying to use her position to focus on the issues facing her native country and create a positive image for Pakistan which has been tarnished globally by what is happening on the ground.
She says the beauty pageant has the backing of almost all Pakistanis, highlighting the increasing popularity of fashion shows in Pakistan.
Hayat says creeping fundamentalism and the treatment of minorities are the very anti-thesis of what Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah preached. Excerpts of an interview:
1) What does being Miss Pakistan mean to you?
Its a symbol for all Pakistani women and a reminder of what we can achieve if we really put our hearts and souls into it. To me it is a representation of what all Pakistani women can achieve. It means being a role model for the children and a spokesperson for the need for their education. I want to channel the world’s attention to empower our women and children through education.
2) Do you think this pageant is real representative of Pakistan, considering Pakistanis oppose beauty contests and will never allow it to be held in Pakistan?
I do believe that the pageant represents all of Pakistan to a certain degree. There is a huge population of Pakistanis living abroad and participants from all over the world are invited and encouraged to join. Not all Pakistani’s are opposed to having the contest in Pakistan itself and this is evident from the emerging popularity of fashion shows, the increased number of designers and overall advancement of the fashion industry.
3) As Miss Pakistan what do you symbolize?
As Miss Pakistan I symbolize beauty with a purpose. My aim is to make as much of an impact as possible in the lives of the women and children of Pakistan by refocusing as much attention as possible onto the fact that we need significant improvements in education. In fact, most of the country’ s problems can be solved through education indirectly. Ultimately, by being Miss Pakistan I want to bring Pakistan into a better light, globally.
4) What do you think about Pakistan’s image globally today, and what can you do to change it?
Pakistan’s image abroad has become tarnished by the present political situation on the ground. What I can do is bring more attention to improve our poor literacy rate by increasing education, which is the ultimate tool in improving lives. I actually first joined Miss Pakistan to see if I could somehow use my voice to shed light on the issues facing us today and make a positive impact in people’s lives.
5) What do you say about creeping fundamentalism and maltreatment of minorities, particularly killings of Christians, in Pakistan? How can it be stopped?
Every society has its issues. We need to address every one of them and then develop strategies to improve ourselves. Fundamentalism and the mistreatment of minorities would have been frowned upon by our founding father. Stopping unnecessary acts of cruelty needs to begin with dialogue and discussion.
6) What do you think of current Pakistani leaders?
Our current leaders are the first elected officials in Pakistan’s history to come to office after a civilian government has completed its full term so it definitely is an improvement and a milestone. Hopefully by time we are ready for the next election there will be more voters who realize that in a small way everyone can make a contribution to making the country a better place for all.
7) Who are your role models and why?
My role model is my mother who has taught me much about life – mainly to be strong and continue striving to be more. But I also am of the belief that we should seek to take all the good qualities from everyone we meet to create a better version of ourselves, constantly improving and striving to be more.
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