Ilamabad-“I haven’t bought any new clothes in two years,” said Amna, a professional beggar from PWD, who was approximately 12-year-old. She further explains about how she only gets two meals a day, and how brutally she’s has been treated. Amna told The Nation that it was impossible for her to run away because she had no place to go due to the fact that she’s an orphan.

“My friend and I try to hide some of the money we make but it’s very scary because if we get caught, they hit us and don’t give us food for days,” She said.

The16-year-old Zaheen is another professional alms seeker, who chose to speak about this topic and its drawbacks.

“I haven’t seen my parents in years. I was abducted from a park at the age of nine and I have been working with this group since then. Once you’re in, something as dark as this, there is really no going back.”

Professional alms seekers are usually forced into this practice. It is very well-planned. People and mostly children are kidnapped and forced to beg. In order to make sure that they don’t run away, they’re given drugs and turned into drug addicts. This isn’t the work of any individual but a plan put into practice by an organised criminal group. 85 per cent of these professional alms seekers are people who have been kidnapped and are being held against their will.

“The worst part about this isn’t the begging, where I live or what I wear. It’s the constant fear of the men. I feel disgusted with them, with myself and with this society,” Saniya, a professional beggar from Islamabad sheds some light on how scary her lifestyle can be.

“I wanted to become a doctor,” Says Salman, age seventeen, a professional alms seeker. “Now, all of that is gone. Survival in this cruel world is my only goal. People like me will never get any education, no matter how much we want it and so, no jobs will be offered to us. I have accepted this dark reality.” 

More than 46 professional alms seekers were caught in the past week. There are more being caught every other day. Professional begging has become a big issue in Pakistan. It is inflicting a lot of harm. It causes immense damage to the society. It’s ruining the lives of countless people and also making them patients of various mental disorders. This can be a very traumatic experience and even those who manage to run away from these groups find it impossible to lead a normal life again. It’s making poor and innocent people miserable. There are many factors that lead to professional alms seeking, such as illiteracy and unemployment.

“They have kept me here only because of my age,” explains an old professional beggar found in Jinnah Super, Islamabad. “I am 70-year-old and I obviously look like I need money and that is why they have me around. I haven’t met my children in twenty years and now, I’ve lost all hope.”

 Ahmed who turned 19 last month, explains how hard it can be for women to get through such situations. “It’s easy for me to manage. I can steal and afford a meal but I’m always worried about my sister. I have to make sure that she is safe and that she’s not being harassed. It can be very hard and frustrating at times.”

“I am a victim of an acid attack.” explains Neha, approximately of age 15. “I was found in Lahore. They brought me to Islamabad but when I started begging, people would often comment on how it didn’t look like I needed any money. So, to make it seem like I was in a desperate need of money, they threw acid on my arms. It was horrific.”

Numerous more professional alms seekers spoke to The Nation about their lifestyle and how it has been affecting their mental and physical health. They had complains about how they were treated and what they are forced to do. Professional alms seekers are an extremely common sight. They can be found almost everywhere with their hands spread out in desperation. This often causes people to get angry because they consider their constant appearances annoying.

“Beggars are everywhere,” Ambreen Talpur, a student of Beaconhouse Potohar campus, shares her opinion. “I try to help them as much as I can but they are everywhere, you’ll find them at traffic signals, outside different markets and also, on the streets. This can be very frustrating.”

–The writer is a student at Roots International School System.