The devotees at Bari Imam Shrine have expressed their resentment over increasing number of child beggars and unwanted vendors that have taken over the place, often operating in connection with criminal groups.
These beggars and vendors follow the devotees throughout the shrine’s premises, demanding alms and forcing them to buy packets of white sugar nuts.
A visitor Danish from Swat said that they (beggars) are mafias, these people are neither homeless nor hunger forced them to beg, as Langer or free food is available all the time in the shrine.
“These people are brought in from the other less developed areas of Pakistan as a part of organized groups”, said a devotee Bilal Ahmed.
For many people, visiting a shrine and donating money to beggars go hand in hand. But their generosity has encouraged the strengthening of a ‘begging mafia’ which forces thousands of children into a life of slavery.
Another visitor from Bara Kahu said that unwanted sellers annoy the devotees’ right from the Bari bus stop to the entrance of the shrine, forcing them to pay alms, promoting beggary.
In an attempt to discourage such groups from spreading out, the City Traffic Police (CTP) had launched several operations against the beggars and rounded up as many as 163 persons from city roads during the month of January and February. According to Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Rawalpindi, Yousaf Ali, 38 cases were also registered against the professional beggars in various police stations of the city.
He reiterated that on the directive of Regional Police Officer (RPO) Rawalpindi, Wisal Fakhar, CTP has been trying to eliminate begging from the city roads.
Ali added that more than 20 child beggars were arrested from roads and were handed over to Child Protection Bureau (CPB) during last two months.
Ali said that they are aware of the issue and have launched several operations against beggars time and again along with warning parents of these children.
He further said that special anti-beggars squad of CTP are conducting raids at different roads and intersections. “Directives had also been issued to the squad to register cases against the beggars and the reports in this regard would be sent to CTO office”, Ali added.
The police have also handed over these minor spongers multiple times to Edhi center but, they reemerge from the corners of the city, he deplored.