In a positive development in Karachi, the police recently raided a gang of kidnappers and rescued 11 underage children who were being forced to beg, in the Upper Gizri area of the city. The children, between the ages of eight and 15 years, were reportedly kidnapped in various parts of the country. Sadly, they were kidnapped specifically to beg during the month of Ramazan, to take advantage of the spirit of giving that many fellow Muslim citizens adopt during the holy month.
Stricken with poverty, depravity in our political system and crime all around, the child population across the country frequently finds itself out on the streets working and learning about the hardships that come with earning a living and supporting a household, rather than being in school. In other cases, children are forced to beg, given no choice but to spread their hands out and ask strangers to pay for their next modest meal, perhaps their only meal of the day. These children are forced to work for gangs with leaders who sometimes have no mercy for the children. The most hapless fact of the matter is that if children manage to earn less than a certain amount, for example, Rs500, kidnappers subject them to torture, as the children in this case testified to. This disturbing phenomenon of gangs kidnapping children and forcing them to beg is not new to Pakistan. A lot of these children are forced to come to Karachi since it is the country’s financial hub but beggar gangs exist elsewhere as well. While it is a welcome move that the police have started a month-long campaign against child beggars, we need stronger enforcement. A campaign will merely spread awareness, which already exists amongst the silent population, which is aware of the illegal gangs but continues to encourage them by supplying loose change when they are accosted on the street. Thus, we need a stronger, more proactive approach with all law-enforcement agencies on board to protect children from being forced into begging.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.
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