KARACHI - Beggars have been badgering people in the commercial hub of the country since the setting in of Ramazan. This year too, an influx of beggars into the port city has been witnessed and authorities have been harping on ‘action-to-be taken mantra’ in the poverty-plagued country.
According to NGOs working on beggars, a majority of beggars comes into Sindh capital from Punjab whose ruler is known for his slogan ‘begging bowl to be broken’. More beggars are expected to throng Karachi. The situation in other provincial capitals is even sorrier.
Recently, Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui chaired a meeting with the relevant authorities and representatives of the various welfare organizations to ponder over the issue. Calling it a security threat in the targeted killing-hit port city, the commissioner said crackdown would be carried out on ‘professional’ beggars.
He has announced a seven-member task force comprising Social Welfare Director, Central Deputy Commissioner, Additional IGP, Traffic DIG and reps of welfare organizations to enforce anti-beggary laws.
The task force has also been directed to work on ‘war-footing’ while social workers have offered to provide beggars with three-time food.
Moreover, organisations working for child rights have also announced they would commence a campaign for mapping various areas, keeping data of beggars’ groups to compliment efforts for the safety and security of children who are forced by beggars’ mafia to beg for them.
For the sake of mercy, fasting people are used to give charity a well-acknowledged Ramazan ritual. A good number of beggars, especially women and children in rags, are seen swarming mosques, restaurants, parks and other Iftar party points. Eunuchs too have joined the begging business. Friday is a great day for beggars. They continue hounding the faithful until they get the money.
Citizens are not satisfied with the actions so far taken by the government and non-governmental organizations to curb this curse.
A senior citizen, Mirza Hanif Baig said: “Like other departments, the concerned officials never heed to our calls.” Social workers and clerics have been calling upon citizens not to give charity to professional beggars, but many feel satisfaction by giving away charity.
According to a survey conducted in Lahore on July 2, a number of gangs of professional beggars have sprung into action. They have spread their tentacles across the provincial metropolis. With every passing day, beggars have been pouring into different localities.
Deplorably begging has emerged as a profession having correlation with divine months, sacred events, and sanctified occasions. Beggars fully understand that people of Pakistan driven by their Islamic values and religious obligations offer charity with generosity and kindness during this holy month. Hence, the beggars flooded the marketplaces, streets, and crossing to mint money. The philanthropists perceive that beggars are poor while the professional beggars artfully fleece money using different pretexts and employing unique guises.
A local cleric, Mufti Mustafa, says that many beggars become fake pious persons with tall claims of spiritual strength and ability to ensure spiritual healings against psychological abnormality. “Others simply extend their begging hands before every passerby depicting their poverty ridden distress,” he said.
The beggars usually resort to emotional exploitation of innocent people. Public generally misperceive that poverty is the main cause of begging whereas beggars use religion as a ruse or excuse to beg, Mustafa explained.
Unfortunately, the profession of begging is heaving and surging across the country since there is no proper official or administrative check to control the menace. Terrorists using beggars’ disguise become more lethal as people tend to approach beggars without fear to offer charities.
There are media reports that terrorists are also using the symptomatic disguise of beggars. Some analysts remarked that Tarnole (Rawalpindi) suicide attack against security forces’ vehicles was undertaken by a man disguised as a beggar. The attack resulted into martyrdom of two senior Army officers. Hence, there is a need to control the increasing numbers of beggars in the country.
Presently, the administration seems unconcerned as the social evil of begging flourishes under their nose. Police officer, Muhammad Sajid said that the overburdened Lahore police are unable to take legal action against all the baggers. “On many occasions, the police launched the crackdown but that proved a futile exercise,” he added.
Begging in Pakistan is a ‘free for all’ phenomenon. It has turned into a profession and is not only for the poor, disabled, invalidated and injured people but a profession of choice by many who believe that begging is a thriving business.
The people who are the main role players of the beggars’ gangs are also known as contractors and they take a 60 per cent share form the daily collection of charity. In turn, they offer the beggars protection while the areas police is also given share for turning a blind eye to their activities.
According to social scientists, begging is not caused by poverty; rather it reflects a predisposition, an attitude, and an outlook which entails use of disguising tricks to emotionally exploit the public. The aim is to fleece money.
The rich people and civil society must denounce begging while administration including police and other law enforcing agencies must keep a constant check on begging and adopt measures to provide Zakat to the needy, discouraging downtrodden way of making money (begging).