Thoughts. Words. Action.

Innocence lost, Beggary and Religion

As I read Mobeen Azhar’s article ( on the ‘Child victims of Pakistan’s begging mafia’, my heart felt heavy.  I was torn between the sense of relief that someone is championing this social disease – organized beggary by exploiting children and twisting religion – at the heart of a state that positions itself as Islamic, and the anguish of seeing another report that casts a dark shadow of my country of birth.

It is true that I have spent more of my life in my adopted country, the US, than the country I was born in – Pakistan, but it is virtually impossible to break all ties, real or emotional, to the place you were born.

Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan.  Official census puts the population at around 18 million, but conventional wisdom says it is 3 to 5 million more.  If you live there, beggars are part of the fabric of society.  You see them everywhere, women, children, old men.  Some simply frail and in tatters, some handicapped, with twisted limbs.  You generally become immune to them.  Sometime you given them the change you have, other times you just shoo them away or ignore their pleas.  Then you run into a ‘rat-boy’ or ‘rat-girl’.  Those particular beggars with small heads and features like a rat.  You cannot help but stare at them, with an overwhelming feeling of ‘how is this possible?’.  Yet there they are.

Over the years, there have been many articles, both in Pakistani media as well as foreign newspapers on this topic.  Yet the epidemic of kidnapping, and violence against children has not been stemmed.  It enrages me that these inhuman acts – maiming and deforming of children – are perpetrated against the weakest and the most innocent.  And for what?  Money.  If that were not enough, these heinous acts are then justified by religion through some twisted logic.

The guilty here are not only the people who kidnap these children.  It is also the so-called caretakers of religion, who twist and contort it to satisfy their own desires.  But that is no different than any other major organized religion.

Hope in humanity comes in the form of Mohammad Ali of Roshni (meaning Light) Helpline.  This may be only a small light in the raging darkness, but enough of those is what reverses the tide.  Continue the fight, Mohammad Ali and all others like you.  Children must be protected and nurtured.  They are our hope.

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