24 Pakistani beggars trying to travel to Saudi Arabia for begging arrested in Multan
Lahore, Oct 1 (PTI) Twenty-four alleged Pakistani beggars disguised as pilgrims were offloaded from Saudi Arabia-bound flights and arrested for trying to travel to the Gulf Kingdom to indulge in begging, according to a media report on Sunday.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) late on Saturday night offloaded eight alleged beggars in the disguise of Umrah pilgrims from a Saudi Arabia-bound flight at the Multan airport, Dawn newspaper reported.
This was the second incident in as many days at the Multan airport in Punjab province.
Two days ago, the FIA offloaded 16 persons, including a child, 11 women and four men, from a Saudi-bound flight at the Multan airport. They were travelling on Umrah visas. The Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year.
According to a statement issued by FIA immigration officer Tariq Mehmood after the second incident, it transpired during the immigration that the group was travelling to Saudi Arabia for the “purpose of begging”.
"They said they would beg there and half of the begged amount would be handed over to the sub-agent,” the FIA statement said, adding that statements of the group along with their passports were seized and the said passengers were sent to FIA’s Anti Human Trafficking and Smuggling Wing in Multan for further legal action.
"A case is being registered against the culprits under the Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018,” the FIA added. The FIA officials during the immigration process of the first group questioned the passengers who confessed that they were going to Saudi Arabia to seek alms, the paper said.
They were to return to Pakistan after the expiry of their Umrah visas.
The FIA Multan circle arrested the passengers for further interrogation and legal action.
The arrests came after the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development disclosed to the Senate Committee on Overseas Pakistanis that a significant proportion of beggars are trafficked abroad through illegal channels.
The ministry’s secretary revealed to the Senate panel that a staggering 90 per cent of beggars apprehended in foreign countries belong to Pakistan.
“Pakistani beggars travel to the Middle East under the guise of ziyarat (pilgrimage). Most people visit Saudi Arabia on Umrah visas and then indulge in begging-related activities,” Secretary Overseas Pakistanis Zeeshan Khanzada told a meeting of the Senate's standing committee last month.
“Both the Iraqi and Saudi ambassadors have reported overcrowded jails due to these arrests,” he had said.
A majority of the pickpockets arrested from within Mecca's grand mosque are Pakistani nationals, The International News daily had quoted Khanzada as saying.
Pakistan is facing an unprecedented economic crisis with skyrocketing inflation amid price rises on fuel and food fronts. PTI NSA ZH ZH