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Professional Beggars from Pakistan Engage in Cross-Border Criminal Activity

The proliferation of organized gangs of professional beggars from Pakistan across international borders points to a concerning trend in criminal activity. Recently, the Secretary of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, in a briefing to a Senate standing committee, revealed that a staggering 90 percent of beggars apprehended in foreign countries are Pakistani nationals. These individuals, entering countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran on pilgrim visas, are exploiting sacred places such as Masjid-e-Haram for illicit activities like pickpocketing.

Zulfikar Haider, Secretary Overseas Pakistanis, highlighted the gravity of the situation, expressing frustration over the lack of action taken to address the escalating issue. He noted that beggars, leaving Pakistan en masse, often utilize Umrah and visit visas to solicit funds from pilgrims abroad, resulting in a significant number of Pakistani beggars filling prisons in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This not only tarnishes the reputation of overseas Pakistanis but also leads to increased deportations and strained diplomatic relations.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) further exposed the organized nature of this criminal activity when it intercepted groups of individuals attempting to enter Saudi Arabia under false pretenses, intending to beg. The modus operandi involved paying hefty sums to obtain visas and then sharing the proceeds with sub-agents upon arrival.

The rising number of Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails underscores the magnitude of the problem. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has expressed concerns to Islamabad about the involvement of Pakistani nationals in begging and pickpocketing within its borders. Despite such alerts, Pakistani society’s neglect of pervasive poverty perpetuates the cycle of exploitation, enabling criminal elements to prey on the vulnerable.

In Pakistan itself, the prevalence of beggars in major cities has become a nuisance, prompting citizens to launch social media campaigns advocating against giving alms to professional beggars. However, the issue remains largely unaddressed by policymakers, with inadequate measures in place to regulate outbound travel and create domestic employment opportunities.

The dismantling of the network of Pakistani beggars abroad poses a formidable challenge for law enforcement agencies, given the organized nature of the operation. Without concerted efforts to address the root causes of poverty and curb criminal exploitation, the phenomenon is likely to persist, casting a shadow over Pakistan’s international reputation and diplomatic relations.

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