Begging: Pakistan’s new profession for kids?

Published: December 3, 2013
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Intentionally impaired children begging on the streets of Karachi. Photo: AFP

They keep navigating from one car to another, knocking at your car windows and doors until you pay attention to them. This is the time when we are waiting for the traffic signal to turn green. They make sure their appearance is seen and not ignored. They are adamant and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Every summer I come down to Pakistan to spend time with my grandparents, and on my way home from the airport, I feel disheartened looking at these children navigating between cars. These are the handicapped young children on the streets of Pakistan asking for alms. The secret of getting more money is to have one or more of their limbs cruelly amputated. In order to elicit more sympathy, these young children pull themselves along the filthy streets, either on their bellies or on low wheel carts, which is extremely pitiful and heart-wrenching to watch. Hundreds and thousands hand out money everyday.

But the questions that come to my mind are: Should we give them money? Do they legitimately deserve our charity? Who are these children? Where do they appear from in the morning and disappear off to at night? Where does the money go? Do they have homes and parents, or do they belong to some mafia gang?

This culture of begging is so widespread that no one thinks about stopping it. When I look at these beggars, it reminds me of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. According to some sources, most of these malnourished children are considered as the so-called property of different mafia gangs who disfigure their bodies to make them seem more miserable. These kids are deliberately maimed by forcibly amputating their arms and legs, and their master’s cruelty goes as far as practically blinding some of the kids to earn more from their pitiful appearances. Evidence says that the more these poor victims are tortured and tormented, the more sympathy they will earn from the public. They are forced to be on the streets from early morning till late in the evening while the revenue goes to their torturers, the organised gangs who possess expertise in mutilating and exploiting defenceless children.

Is there any law enforcement agency that can take some time out to look into this matter?

Isn’t there any way that these under-aged beggars can go to school holding their schools bags in the morning instead of sticking their hands out for cash?

It is important for the respective authorities to reach out to our society and make sure that these children are provided opportunities to go to school and live in a safe environment. According to some sources, there are many NGOs that are involved in solving such issues, but no significant results could be achieved. These children can be a productive part of our society if only they are given the required resources and guidance.

Unless we make an effort to include them in our society, they will remain outcasts and resort to begging. They need to be introduced into educational systems to be able to make their own choice, but who is to take that first step? If the government and NGOs have failed so far, perhaps, it is time for the citizens of the country to play their own role in eradicating this ‘new profession’.

If these kids belong to some mafia lord, then there is a bigger threat to their lives than we think and if this continues to spread, begging may become a little industry of its own.

Now is not the time to sit back and ponder upon what I have just stated, now is the time to get up and make a difference. Every little step counts!

Sabrina Khan

Sabrina Khan

A senior at Marian High School in Boston. She frequently visits Pakistan and feels great remorse for the under privileged children she see’s everyday. She tweets as @shahidboston (twitter.com/shahidboston)

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

  • Neutral observer

    Begging has become a problem in Pakistan, because it is now so widespread. Every time I go to Pakistan, every other day there is some beggar that shows up at the front of my door asking for money, probably based on rumours that you get a lot of cash from an European expat. I often reluctantly give some money, though I know very well it would sustain the menace of begging, but the alternative could be far worse. I do no want to get carjacked, robbed in my own house or even raped and killed.Recommend

  • PAF

    Out of every 7 Pakistani 1 of them is a professional beggar. You do not even have to relate to personal experiences, one look at the statistics is enough to know that begging has become part of the culture. It has become a thriving business model, and a problem of epic proportions that needs to dealt with.Recommend

  • Affan

    Good article but i believe education is no solution to this problem. With inflation at a rise no father would prefer sending his kids to school when they can contribute to the household income by working-working in the form of child labor or begging on streets. The more practical approach is to give the parents the resources to earn money and they choose for the kids the proper way of education.Recommend

  • raw is war

    even your leaders are begging- at America’s door.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    There is one sure shot way of discouraging these ‘beggars’ – child or adult , in the subcontinent . Lets not give any cash to them. Instead we can offer eats . If they are really hungry, then they will take it happily. In due course , when they see no one is ‘paying’ them for this role , they will stop it themselves. I personally have encountered ‘beggars’ in big cities who refuse eats . Instead they insist on cash .Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    You do realise these children don’t beg out of their own free will. They are forced into these things by Adults who collect their due from them at the end of the day. If you don’t give them anything or give them food they’ll only end up getting thrashed by those men for not collecting enough money. They can’t just “stop it themselves”. There is a toll free number 1098 in India which can be dialed whenever you witness child abuse happening. My dad did call that number when he saw a bunch of street kids sniffing glue, people from thechild helpline did come and took those kids away with the promise of enrolling them in a reform house, but I saw those very kids at the same place a week later. Most probably the helpline guys were paid off by the traffickers. There is a huge nexus between child traffickers and Law officials and we can only hope that things get better.Recommend

  • Oats

    The problem is that a lot of expats are themselves beggers overseas. Think about the Muslim expats in Europe – apart from the UK there is little legal way of going to Europe so most Muslims in Europe are asylum seekers who smuggled themselves in on boats illegaly and begged for asylum. Most continue to live on welfare or state social assistance since they don’t work or do simple labour. So I guess relatives in the home country feel that when they ask for money from these expats in Europe, they are just getting the free welfare money they get from the Europeans tax dollars. Anyone who has been to the UK has seen how Muslims live alienated in ghettos on social assistance.Recommend

  • Haseeb

    Yes, she is right now a days people are begging instead of doing struggle. However, these beggars belongs to village side and they are profession beggars. Regardless Pakistani beggars, in India they are outnumber. Moreover, most of the beggars because there parents teach them how to handle rich people. Thus, the rate of beggars are getting more with the passage of time.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your concern and views are both relevant and well presented.
    The question is a bigger one,of the haves as opposed to the have nots. The 1% against the 99%.The system is devised to ensure that the 1% remain the 1% and the 99 % remain the 99%………so it is the system that has to change as everything else is simply like an aspirin administered to treat a cancer.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    It’s a nice, safe blog. By safe, I mean the author puts forward some vague propositions that nobody can ever disagree with: the government, NGOs and individual citizens should work harder at rehabilitating child beggars.

    Exactly how? That’s for the readers to figure out on their own.

    Also, there is no “culture” of begging, as the world implies that this is just how people prefer to do things. Begging is the result of socioeconomic instability and wealth disparity, driving people into desperation. They don’t have much of a choice. The mafia takes advantage of this chaos and desperation, to do all the horrible things you described.

    Considering that the author is a just a high school student, the blog is pretty impressive. Good observation, Sabrina!Recommend

  • Sandip

    Unfortunately, they are merely following Pakistani leaders. Just that, due to limited resources, they land up at your doors instead of the White house, Saud
    Royal palace or the UAE palace. Shameful, but real.Recommend

  • Faisal

    It is hard, but I have stopped giving to professional beggars, especially children. Instead I give my charity to some trusted organisations or some needy people that I know in far flung villages. I would urge upon all to do the same.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Restrict reproduction in Pakistan ( like China) for 10 years and begging problem will be controlled.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Anshuman sir , So again , I am reiterating , lets not pay any cash to these children . They beg due to circumstances or hunger or whatever . When they ( or the people behind them ) see that no cash inflow is happening , they will stop it themselves. Lets give them something to eat as a temporary measure . BTW begging happens in the so called developed western countries too . I mostly buy these ‘beggars’ coffee .Recommend

  • sukumar

    one of the most practical suggestion, many people have made it a practice to keep parle glucose chhota pack in dozens in car and give one to a child begging, one chhota pack gives enough for a meal.
    giving money means u r paying to kidnap one more child and convert it to be a forced beggar on the street.Recommend

  • sterry

    All Muslim countries have become begger nations in one way or another so why point fingers at poor people? Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Egypt are all begger states that rely on US aid to keep going. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are beggers for defense since they rely on US military and cannot defend themselves. They happily pay billions while they beg US to protect them. You may be in US but Muslims living in Western countries are mostly below the poverty line and live as beggers on state social aid so why should begging in Muslim countries be considered any worse?Recommend

  • Javid

    I heard that 30 or 40 years ago than India had more beggars but people tell me that it is now the other way around.Recommend

  • usman786

    In India, there are more beggers. Even you have billions of dollars in reserve still people go for begging or prostitution and take aid from UN, countries and NGosRecommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    For the survival of all these man-made gods and allahs, hungry and homeless self-created beggars at every doorstep are a blessing!Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Rashid

    I can only agree with you, Sabrina. I think it is important that the organizations in Pakistan that are working against this scourge are recognized and supported. Whenever the government captures the criminals that abduct and force children to beg, the news should be communicated widely.Recommend

  • RIMSHA SARFARAZ

    i totally agree .. these are the puppets of mafia gang..and are forced to do beggingRecommend