The generous spirit of Pakistanis often leads them to engage in philanthropy; however, this compassionate trait is being exploited by beggars, particularly those who beg under false pretenses. In many countries, particularly in the Third World, including Pakistan, organized beggar mafias operate, utilizing criminal elements to run their schemes. These mafias resort to kidnapping children and inflicting various physical disabilities, including blindness, to evoke pity and sympathy from people.
These exploited children are strategically placed in profitable locations within cities and towns. Incidences of beggar mafias operating in cities like Karachi and others are occasionally reported. When the government’s attention is drawn to these activities, the beggars tend to disappear temporarily, only to resurface soon after. Presently, beggar mafias are again active in Karachi, engaging in a highly profitable multimillion-rupee enterprise.
Earlier this year, the police initiated a crackdown on beggar mafias in Karachi. During this anti-beggary operation, it came to light that the children accompanying beggars were not their own; instead, they had been forcibly taken from their families. These child beggars, along with their older counterparts, were found involved in crimes such as petrol theft, stealing motorbike parts, looting valuables from cars, and even kidnapping other children.
Unfortunately, the crackdown lost momentum over time, allowing the beggars to reappear and resume their activities under the direction of their mafia bosses. The mafias systematically train these children in various tactics like pick-pocketing, shoplifting, and theft, continuously refining their skills. Comparisons to the depiction of such criminals in the novel “Oliver Twist” are inevitable when discussing beggar mafias.
Beggary is, undoubtedly, a socio-economic problem, and most beggars are compelled by their circumstances to resort to this profession.
A disheartening incident at a petrol pump illustrates the grim reality. A young child approached me to sell toys, but as an adult, I declined the offer. Surprisingly, a man around his mid-50s stepped in, scolded and physically punished the child, emphasizing the “rule” to only present toys to people with children in their cars. It became evident that this man was involved in some mafia and likely responsible for training these impoverished children.
Begging itself may not be a criminal offense, as it often arises from dire necessities. However, it is crucial to take stringent action against those involved in operating beggar mafias. Additionally, providing vocational skills training to beggars in shelter homes could prove to be beneficial in addressing this complex issue.