Professional beggars: More greedy than needy

Published: April 29, 2012

At times when you offer beggars your change, they refuse to take it. PHOTO: QAZI USMAN / EXPRESS

Allah keh naam par 10 rupay dey dey beta.

(Please give me Rs10 in God’s name, son.)

Roti khila dey, tujhey ek naik aur khubsurat biwi miley.

(Give me bread to eat and you will find a beautiful, decent wife)

How many times have we heard this and cringed from deep within?

Such phrases are played like rhythmic rhetoric every time you park your car on a signal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a feudal lord’s son who will throw acid on his wife, neither do I commute in a chauffeur driven, air-conditioned SUV. I’m a common Pakistani who walks the same streets like millions other do.

Yes, I may be privileged, but I’m not callously living in a world where anything to do with ‘poor’ and ‘poverty’ is unrealistic and delusional.

However, irrespective of where you are positioned on the social ladder, everyone has experienced harassment by these ‘professional’ beggars. Allow me to take the liberty of narrating a personal experience.

One fine day, I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green while deep in my thoughts, until consistent knocking on the car’s window pulled me out of my reverie. Upon looking up, my gaze was met with that of a teary eyed old man.

He requested,

Agey tak lift dey do beta.

(Please give me a lift.)

I obliged.

As we travelled, he finally explained why he was crying. His daughter had died and he had no money to arrange her funeral.

Iss mulk mein ghareeb ki koyi jagah nai.

(There is no place for the poor in this country.)

His ordeal was heart-wrenching and by the end of it, I had tears of my own. He was dropped off where he wanted to go, with whatever cash I could give to him at that time.

Lo and behold! Three days later, on a different signal but in an identical setting, I heard familiar knocking on the window. Looking up, I found the same old man crying with the similar anguish in his eyes and repeating the same old line!

When asked if his daughter had died, ‘again’, the aged beggar just laughed callously and went away, leaving me astonished, perplexed and offended at this cruel, unfeeling deception.

There’s no denying that most people live under the poverty line and barely manage to make ends meet. Some pursue selling their kidneys, while others look for potential clients who would ‘buy their children’. This sorry state of affair witnesses no end, and Pakistan’s Human Development Index keeps falling to dismal levels.

But this should not let beggars take advantage of the situation and play with people’s sentiments; people like you and I who are fooled by their emotional blackmailing tactics. We want to help and make a difference in their lives, but we are discouraged by their dishonesty and it is hard to gauge who is sincere and who isn’t.

I have come to understand that ‘professional’ beggars are not needy, they are greedy!

Ask any one of them to work instead of begging, and you’re met with deadly stares and rude remarks that shake the ground you’re standing on. Request them to leave you, and the knocking on your car’s window gets vengeful and even more persistent. Some even fire choice cuss words at you, while warning you that they will pray for you and your family’s demise.

At times when you offer beggars your change, they refuse to take it and state with up-turned noses that they want more, and that the amount offered is petty. They often say,

Laal note do, yh kia diya hai?

(Give me a red note, what is this you have given me?)

These beggars are known to work as Mafia that overtly and covertly have political backing, while the police merely stand as hapless bystanders. Even if an anti-begging operation is carried out and a locality is cleansed off this malignant disease, one can witness a repeat influx of the beggars in no time.

While they may be ‘forced’ to beg because of their economical conditions, under duress, or out of habit, the state and its citizens treat them like a constant source of irritation but nobody does anything about it.

Walk on the road and you will find six year olds trained under 80 year olds, women carrying drug induced babies, and men with various scars and injuries.


Because the government has yet to come up with a proper rehabilitation mechanism.

The adopted plan of action should not only provide ‘roti, kapra and makaan,’ (bread, clothes and housing) but must also help inculcate a useful set of skills that will assist them in earning a dignified income, without having to harass people in the hopes of fishing money out of them. This should be coupled with counselling done by trained psychologists to instill a sense of self-sufficiency.

Above all, and as a mentor,  Qurratulain Akhtar suggested, we should collectively decide to give our alms to people who actually deserve them. Do SOS Children’s village, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and Edhi ring a bell?


Read more by Sabeer here.


Sabeer Lodhi

The author is studying at Monash University, Melbourne. He is a student and supporter of human rights with a focus on gender equality, minority rights and feminism. He tweets as @sabeerlodhi (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mehrooz

    Great work Sabeer. This is a malaise that our society needs to get rid of. Do they really have to beg when they have 4 functional limbs, a brain and senses that work perfectly normally? There are disabled people out there who work harder than these mentally lazy emotional blackmailers we call ‘fakeers’. The only way to discourage professional beggary is to boycott giving them any money. Recommend

  • Awais

    Great read, I normally used to fork over five or ten rupees, sometimes twenty when I was in Lahore. One time I handed a fifty rupee note to a woman who claimed her daughter needed a operation and she did not have the money for it. After seeing this my father sarcastically told me to hand over the car keys.

    I don’t think there will be counselling offered by psychologists any time soon, or if there is counselling being offered (at a price or not) I doubt these people will change there ways straight away.Recommend

  • Amit

    Excellent ! Same here in indiaRecommend

  • sultan bhai

    I have a slight disagreement here; since giving or not giving is up to you but we can’t pick and point since there are a lot of needy people in this poverty stricken side of the world, it may be clear that it is relatively very easy but given a choice no one would want to take his or her respect to the roads and if they are lying then they’re lying to live, lying to feed the eyes that wait for them from dawn to dusk to bring them food. If for just one week we are stripped of everything and walk in their shoes, everything will become clear to us.Recommend

  • same same

    Yeah, same like PAKISTANRecommend

  • Kumar

    Amit: Begging in india is not as bad as it is in pakistan because its in their bloods and from their prime minister to president and the army, everyone seems to be begging. Recommend

  • waqas

    I have experienced that the beggars in Lahore have excelled in playing with the sentiments.
    My experience compels me to share a new upcoming trend. The road in front of my house lacks street lights and it gets ultra dark at night but it has a smooth traffic flow. Taking advantage of it, there are at least two families of beggars(husband, wife and an infant), who would take take turns each night to sit on the edge of road. Their mysterious presence in the middle of night at such a place naturally affects the feelings of the passersby forcing them to stop and help them with money. Unfortunately this game never ends. I have been witnessing this for a month now and I have noticed similar trends are being followed especially in less crowded areas.Recommend

  • Ashish

    This is their job and you and I have little right to say against it. Only thing we can do is refuse them any demands. If they wanted to work , they would not have been there. Sometime back , I saw a short VDO clip wherein an auto driver scolds away one beggar with one defective leg. The passenger starts firing the auto driver and gives money to the beggar. At the destination , the passenger hands over a 500 Rs. note to the driver. He does not have change so the driver gets down from the auto to get the change and it was shown in the VDO that the driver was also not having one leg.Recommend

  • Moiz

    in our “bloods” eh?
    and i thought Indians had a decent command over the English language. Listen, i get this is the internet and you’re all welcome to comment here. But pointlessly insulting Pakistanis will do nothing but antagonize them further and make them even less likely to listen to an Indian next time. Though this is probably wasted on you, you seem like an Indian version of Ali Tanoli.Recommend

  • Amit

    Kumar: i agree with you. But major difference is pakistani ministers take loan from world bank deposit in swiss bank and our ministers plunder its own people and deposit in the same swiss bank. As per as begging is concerned don’ t give alms to the young physically and mentally able person.Recommend

  • Zahid Naseem Akbar

    Well reported. Yesterday I waited for someone in Chaklala, Rawalpindi market for two hours and counted 26 beggars who approached me. Most were women. I think rehabilitation efforts are not complete solution as more beggars will always be available to be employed by the employers involved. We need investigative journalism exposing the real benefactors and those involved passively.Recommend

  • Kumar

    you probably need to open your eyes and stay abreast with what is happening in your country because then you wont consider my comment ‘pointlessly insulting’. this is a fact that i stated, but excuse me if you cant digest it only because of your bigotry towards indians and what they say.

    pardon me but it only shows the disgustingly judgmental behavior pakistanis can be proud of.Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    Yes, it really annoys me when they harass me by praying evil for me. If a beggar has complete pairs of limbs and still begs, he is a professional beggar. Anybody with an abnormality/disability of some sort deserves a donation. Anyway, if their prayers were to come true, wouldn’t the world have ended by now? Recommend

  • Amit

    Cool down kumar . moiz : do’t take it to your heart . It just a tug of war between two seperated brothersRecommend

  • Parvez

    @Amit: Well said. Recommend

  • Kumar

    moiz’s comment is a manifestation of the intolerance that most in the country have and with that, i rest my case on amit’s request.Recommend

  • stenson

    @Kumar: We all know that there is more abject poverty and begging in India but this is because India is a much bigger country where there are lots of poor people. The point the article states is that beggers in Pakistan should not be supported since it is a business for them- they are not really poor and if you look at many beggers in Pakistan, they are mostly well nourished. As for aid given to developing countries, until India stops accepting foreign aid from developed western countries, you should not talk about other nations begging. Just remember that even Canada gave you the Candu nuclear reactor as aid to develop energy but instead India used that aid to make nuclear weapons in South Asia and start the arms race. Imagine about how many people could be fed in India if they hadn’t started nuclear arms race.Recommend

  • Sana

    To all those kind hearted people out there who just cannot stop giving alms. Please give your money to any charitable organisation that you trust and be rest assured your money will feed a hungry person, even if it is not the one knocking on your car door. In turn, once the charitable organisation have enough funds to cover food, they can invest in other projects such as schooling. By giving money to dominantly professional beggars, you are encouraging begging and doing no benefit to the humanity. Recommend

  • Sane

    Such full of hate comments from people like you further put weight on decision of our elders to get independence in 1947. Anyways we have much lesser poverty as we are not ‘Shining’ state.Recommend

  • Kumar

    nobody is denying that india takes aid too but the ratio of it being misused by the leaders is higher in pakistan than in india. whats amusing to see is that most of you would keep criticizing your governments, but when an outsider (specially indian) does it, your dead sense of patriotism comes alive with a viciousness – my point, relax and admit your failures instead of trying to throw mud on others. this would not absolve you, but rather show your intolerance towards another nation. Recommend

  • sultan bhai

    @kumar I think so much of hate only comes when someone steps over a nerve that one is closely associated to. You can tell us your story, I’m sure there are many who will be willing to help you out. :)Recommend

  • http://Australia Naeem Siddiqui


    your attitude can also be classified as intolerance :)Recommend

  • Amit

    @ sana yes india have more people living in abject poverty than pakistan. But that because of larger population. But we heading towards uplifting those people. If economy continues to grow at 8 to 10 % for another 10 years, we will have small % of downtrodden people. Lets hope we achieve this goal and come out with shinning and healthy india.Recommend

  • http://Lahore GlobalNomad

    So we all know that beggary is an industry prospering under very influential higher ups. The money collected goes all the way to several big shots. So, unless they are held beggary will go on. We are in Pakistan. Har Shak Pe Ullu Baitha Hai!!!Recommend

  •!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Great. Indians and Pakistanis can’t even read an article about beggars without arguing which country has more of them! HA! Recommend

  • Kaleem

    “Because the government has yet to come up with a proper rehabilitation mechanism”

    Every country has regulatory programs set as per the living style and traditions it holds. In Pakistan, if you open a ‘proper’ rehabilitation mechanism, it wouldn’t be long that every 8 out of 10 people will stop earning whatever they do by hand and line up for complimentary funds to be given from the government sector. Sadly, but this is the harsh reality. People here are always looking for short cuts and once you start one such programs, even the well offs will try their level best to show that they are deserving and deceive you easily to prove that they deserve support from the ‘rehabilitation mechanism’. If a country overseas has a similar program, this doesn’t mean that we start to copy-cat them.Recommend

  • curious

    Life is a business, the sooner you get that into your head the better. Well professional beggars, they are just in a big mafia that controls their purse strings. Their plight is sad but yes if people stopped giving them money then this business would go under. Recommend

  • Kumar

    @Naeem Siddiqui:
    never mind my attitude and pay attention to the problems that need to be paid attention to in your country and they are many, if i may say so. however point taken!Recommend

  • Amna

    Not having the capability of differentiating between needy and professional beggars because they portray so well that I sometime feel very bad for rejecting a needy person. This professionalism has made the lives of misers really pathetic because I believe sometimes a person is in a situation where he has no other way except asking for money.May God help them understand this so that people like me don’t refuse to help the needy people.Recommend

  • sultan bhai

    I think the problem is that most of us are too self centered and even if they come in the shape of a person of would like to clean your windshield you still get irritated so there is a problem with the person who is giving charity and not at the reciving end.

    I have a small request here that if anyone of us is approached by these cleaning kids and we don’t have money or not willing to give money please DON’T turn on the wipers when the kids have their hands on your glass since it spits the waters into their eyes and face and wipers a capable of hitting and hurting their hands. Not giving is not that bad as hurting them is.Recommend

  • Farhan Khan

    Would you Believe, exactly the same happened to me on IJP road Islamabad. Son, my daughter has died please take me to next stop in your car. Recommend

  • Sabeer Lodhi

    Thank you for all the comments. I enjoy the fresh perspectives all of you bring, portraying the diverse society we live in. A society that is evolving into a tolerant one in which different views are accommodated and respected.

    @sultan bhai:
    I understand your point, but please allow me the liberty to differ from your point of view. We may be self-centered, but I can assure you that we do not get irritated because of that reason.

    We get irritated because they come running in groups (or even alone), ambush us with their weapons (vipers, water bottles), invade our privacy (while we’re eating in the car with family, etc), and insist on offering/imposing their unrequired services even if we request them not to.

    Not even the most ambitious companies market their services the way these ‘windshield cleaners’ do.

    So no, I do believe the problem remains at the receiving end. Recommend

  • yousaf

    I do not know how many I did not help in their hour of need.I never give alms or help someone who,may be,really in need.I developed this habit due to one surprising incident.I was travelling from Nowshera (KPK) to Peshawar.The train had just started to move from the station when suddenly a dozen or so young and little girls boarded our compartment.The girls were in very dirty and torn rags.A sheet of cloth was hanged to hide themselves and two of the younger ones started begging for money from the passengers.I heard some commotion from behind the curtain and just out of curiosity peeped to see what was happening there.To my astonishment I saw all the girls sitting with heaps of money (coins and notes of all denominations) before each of them and counting their one day”s loot.Since that day I have been committing the GUNAH of not helping the beggars.Only God knows if I am right or wrong for what I do Recommend

  • Reeja Arooj

    @same same:
    its a positive articleRecommend

  • Reeja Arooj

    very positive articleRecommend

  • Ali S

    You bring up a good point with this article. Most truly needy people shy away from begging any way. There are organizations like Silani, Edhi, Chhipa and many others that are there for these people. In fact, in many cases begging pays better than if these people were to actually work for daily wages. Sad state of affairs.

    I think another similar, important issue that needs to be addressed are the little children that are begging / cleaning windshields on traffic signals – I’ll be honest, a little bit of me dies inside every time I see them (the least I can do is give them some food items).Recommend

  • Bhikari

    I will be following soon a course to become a professional beggar and then afterwards will start my own company to train other people.Recommend

  • Raj

    @Moiz: I simply loved your comments. I have some very good Pakistani friends. We ( Indians and Pakistanis ) are not bad people but exceptions are there. Begging is a big problem in India. Beggars are very abusive in India. They do not want to work.I read a news that police arrested a beggar in Chandigarh who holidaying in a five star hotel. Recommend

  • Raj
  • T

    “moiz’s comment is a manifestation of the intolerance that most in the country have and with that, i rest my case on amit’s request.”

    But I have’nt seen anyone as “Intolerant” as you Indians on ET. You guys are always full of comments filled with hatred and intolerance. Refer to any other post on ET..especially the ones on Kashmir. I guess its the denial syndrome…and your media also plays a role in promoting this seen on your news channels.Recommend

  • Mudassar

    Good job done Sabeer.
    Add the windscreen cleaner group to this list too… I have had innumerable experiences where I was forced to give out money to them otherwise they would spill the dirtiest of the water on the glass….

    and these beggars, they are not beggars… they are doing their jobs and there are perfectly organized groups who are backing them and managing them so no need for sympathizing with them (as some people referred in comments) Recommend