The issue of gangs of professional beggars, once notorious on the streets and squares of Pakistan, has now crossed international borders and become a growing concern in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and beyond.
According to a report shared with the senators, a staggering 90% of professional beggars arrested in Middle Eastern nations hail from Pakistan, and Pakistani nationals are disproportionately involved in petty crimes such as pickpocketing around the revered Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia.
During a heated meeting of the Standing Committee of Overseas Pakistanis chaired by Senator Manzoor Kakar on Wednesday, Secretary Overseas Pakistanis Zulfikar Haider vented his frustration and raised alarm over the lack of action taken to address this escalating issue. Haider disclosed startling details about the extent of the problem and its impact on the reputation of overseas Pakistanis.
“Beggars are leaving Pakistan en masse, often traveling by boatloads, and then exploiting Umrah and visit visas to beg from pilgrims abroad,” Haider revealed. He went on to express his deep concern that prisons in Iraq and Saudi Arabia are now housing a significant number of Pakistani beggars, further tarnishing the image of Pakistanis abroad.
Also read: Rising nuisance : Professional beggars exploiting lenient laws
One of the most alarming aspects of this phenomenon is the erosion of trust in overseas Pakistanis. Haider lamented that Pakistanis are increasingly viewed with suspicion abroad, leading to a rising number of deportations. “Iraq and Saudi Arabia continuously complain that we are sending criminals to their countries, and their jails are overcrowded with Pakistani beggars. This is a serious issue of human trafficking,” he asserted.
In the same meeting, Senator Rana Mehmoodul Hassan highlighted another issue – the underrepresentation of Pakistani skilled labour abroad. Hassan compared Pakistan’s performance in sending skilled professionals to countries like Japan, where neighbouring nations like India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have made significant contributions. Pakistan, in contrast, has sent a mere 200 individuals to Japan.
Hassan emphasised the urgent need for Pakistan to step up its efforts in providing skilled labour, especially since Saudi Arabia now demands more than simple labour but highly skilled professionals. “We have 50 thousand unemployed engineers in Pakistan. It’s time we focus on sending skilled labour abroad,” Hassan urged.
Also read: Beggars pester locals for food, money
Secretary Overseas Pakistanis informed the committee about the establishment of a Skilled Center in Saudi Arabia and highlighted the presence of 1,600,000 Pakistanis in the UAE and 200,000 in Qatar. He stressed that Pakistan must send skilled professionals such as engineers, nurses, IT experts, and individuals from the paramedical and pharmaceutical sectors to enhance the country’s reputation abroad.
“If we send professionals overseas, our remuneration will rise, and our trustworthiness will improve,” Haider explained.