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Hypocrisy: Broke, Pakistan suspends passports of 2,000 professional beggars!

Hypocrisy: Broke, Pakistan suspends passports of 2,000 professional beggars!

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: A nearly bankrupt Pakistan has sprung a surprise on the world by suspending the passports of some 2,000 professional beggars, claiming they tarnished the country’s image overseas—when Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif himself, his predecessor Imran Khan, and several others are on record lamenting their nation’s poor international image as a country carrying “begging bowls.”

For years, Pakistan has been surviving on doles and loans, hand-to-mouth, and its senior leaders and officials, including the PM and the Army chief, routinely visit other “friendly” countries like China and those in the Middle East, seeking fresh aid or loan. Since its Partition from India in 1947, Pakistan has sought IMF bailouts over two dozen times—as it is doing even now.

The twist in the tale now is that Islamabad has suspended the passports of over 2,000 professional beggars who “harm the country’s image by traveling abroad to seek donations,” Pakistani media reported on Monday.

A list of these beggars has been gathered from Pakistani embassies globally, and additional details have been sought from the Foreign Ministry.

Pakistanis caught begging outside Pakistan face a seven-year suspension of their passports, the report said.

Officials said that begging abroad not only damages Pakistan’s reputation but also diminishes the honor of its citizens, underscoring the reasoning behind this measure.

Also, the government plans to invalidate the passports of agents aiding individuals engaged in begging abroad. Numerous beggars travel to destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq for pilgrimage or Umrah, only to start begging, the report said.

The two ministries are collaborating to formulate a cohesive policy to tackle this issue. Gathering information on individuals involved in begging overseas is considered an important initial action toward enforcing impactful measures.

The embarrassing matter hit headlines globally in October 2023 when around 24 Pakistanis, claiming to be pilgrims, were detained before boarding flights bound for Saudi Arabia because officials suspected them as disguised beggars.

Just two days before this incident, officials at the Multan Airport offloaded 16 individuals, including one child, 11 women, and four men, from a flight bound for Saudi Arabia on suspicion of begging. They carried Umrah visas, which are for Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca, allowing travel at any point in the year.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) stated that the group confessed to going to Saudi Arabia to seek alms and a case was registered against them under the Trafficking in Persons Act. The Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis revealed that 90 percent of beggars apprehended abroad are from Pakistan.

Videos and photos of some of these beggars begging on aircraft also went viral, acutely embarrassing the Sharif government.


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