Pakistan's Erica Robin, who hails from Karachi has won the title of "Miss Universe Pakistan 2023," becoming the first-ever from the country to earn this title.
However, Erica's win has not been received with celebrations back home. Instead, it has met with either criticism or absolute silence.
The 24-year-old Erica won the title in a first-ever Miss Universe Pakistan event that featured five contestants from Pakistan and was organised by a Dubai-based company Yugen Group.
After winning the title, Erica will not be representing Pakistan at the global level in the upcoming Miss Universe pageant to be held in El-Salvador.
While Erica expressed her profound graciousness on winning the title; her achievement was met with criticism from many back home in Pakistan, especially from religious groups and parties, while the government refused to take ownership of Erica's achievement.
Jamaat-e-Islami's Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan said: "It is shameful to prepare young women for the Miss Universe pageant and organise the Miss Pakistan pageants. This is an insult to Pakistan. Women of Pakistan are insulted and exploited. Who are the organisers of this beauty pageant in Pakistan? Who is doing this shameful act? Government should bring them forward. Who has authorised her to represent Pakistan? Is this the decision of the government of Pakistan? Caretaker Prime Minister should immediately clarify the position of his government and stop this ridicule, humiliation of Pakistani women in the name of beauty pageants. This is a deliberate game being played with the religious sentiments of the Muslims of Pakistan."
Prominent religious leader Mohammad Taqi Usmani also raised questions over the news: "There is news that five young ladies will represent Pakistan in the international beauty pageant. If this is true, how far will we go? Let the impression disappear."
Women activists have come out in support of Erica Robin and have slammed criticisers for feeling insecure every time a Pakistani woman achieves a name for herself.
"It's become a norm to attack Pakistani women who achieve a name for themselves on the international stage. Why are women's international successes seen as a blot on the country's morals?" asked rights activist Zohra Yusuf.
Seasoned journalist Mariana Baabar praised the 24-year-old, insisting that anyone can represent Pakistan.
"Pakistan belongs to all. Every Pakistani can represent anywhere, whenever, however. Ladies n Gentlemen, Karachi's Erica Robin was crowned the winner of the first-ever Miss Universe Pakistan. Beauty and Brains!" said Mariana.
Pakistan's interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said that the country has not designated any non-state or non-government person or institution for such an event.
"The government and the state of Pakistan are represented by the state and government institutions. Our government has not designated any non-state and non-governmental person or institution for any such activity and no such person/institution can represent the state/government. The end," he said.
Erica maintains that she intends to bring to light the exquisite beauty that resides within Pakistan's rich culture and traditions, which she added are often concealed in the shadows of media attention.
Erica hails from Karachi. She did her schooling from St. Patrick Girls High School and started her professional modelling career in January 2020. She was featured on the pages of DIVA magazine and later became an assistant manager as Flow Magazine.
In December 2021, she flew off to Dubai -- the UAE. And it was September 14, 2023, when Erica won the Miss Universe Pakistan title at Brennia Kottefaru in Raa Atoll, Maldives.
Erica's next stop will be at the Miss Universe 2023 pageant in San Salvador, El Salvador, on November 18, 2023.
It remains to be seen if Pakistan government would own up to Erica's representation of Pakistan or would keep its distance from her, maintaining Erica's achievement as her own and not of Pakistan.