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Pakistan: 16 'beggars' on way to Saudi Arabia disguised as pilgrims offloaded from flight, arrested

Saudi Arabia has raised concerns with Islamabad over rising numbers of Pakistan nationals involved in begging or pickpocketing there. Most of these people travel illegally to Saudi Arabia disguised as pilgrims.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Multan (Pakistan) Published on: October 01, 2023 14:43 IST
Saudi Arabia has noted an increasing flux of beggars from
Image Source : PIXABAY/REPRESENTATIVE Saudi Arabia has noted an increasing flux of beggars from Pakistan

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has offloaded 16 alleged 'beggars' from a Saudi Arabia-bound flight at Multan Airport recently. The passengers allegedly attempted to go to Saudi Arabia disguised as pilgrims, reported Pakistani daily Dawn.

The country's top investigation agency said that the group comprised 16 persons, including a child, 11 women and four men, who were travelling on Umrah visas to Mecca. The Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year.

After questioning by the FIA officials, it came to light that they intended to visit Saudi Arabia to seek alms and would give half of their earnings to agents involved in their travel arrangements. The passengers said that they would return to Pakistan upon the expiry of their Umrah visas.

The Multan division of FIA then proceeded to arrest the passengers for further interrogation and legal action. This comes after Secretary of Overseas Pakistanis Zeeshan Khanzada told Pakistan's Senate standing committee on Overseas Pakistanis that most of the Pakistanis travelling abroad are purposely involved in begging.

“Both the Iraqi and Saudi ambassadors have reported overcrowded jails due to these arrests,” Khanzada had said.

Don't send your beggars, pickpockets here: Saudi Arabia to Pakistan

In yet another embarrassment for cash-strapped Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has raised concerns with Islamabad as a majority of people who travel to the Kingdom are involved in either begging or pickpocketing.

During the meeting of the Senate's standing committee for Overseas Pakistanis on Wednesday, Rana Mahmoodul Hassan Kakar in the chair made a shocking claim that almost 90 per cent of Pakistani citizens travel to the Middle East country under the guise of "pilgrimage". Also, he said that Saudi Arabia told the Pakistani officials that the majority of the pickpockets arrested from within Makkah's grand mosque are Pakistani nationals.

"Ambassadors of Iraq and Saudi Arabia complain to us that their prison facilities have been overrun [due to Pakistani beggars that enter the country via unauthorised channels]. This issue now befalls within the category of human trafficking," Khanzada said during the meeting.

Even Nepal has more skilled people than Pakistan

Further, Chairman Kakar, in a shocking claim, said that only 200 Pakistanis travelled to Japan after the island country had floated a requirement of 3,40,000 skilled people. On the other hand, over 1,50,000 Indians and 91,000 people from Nepal went to Japan, the committee chairman said.

"We have 50,000 unemployed engineers...whereas Nepal which has a total population of 30 million, managed to train their people in the Japanese language [and send them there]," he added.

Moreover, informing about the preparations made with regard to Newtech's proposal to the Saudi government, Kakar claimed that the initial proposal sent by Islamabad was turned down by Saudi.

"The committee chairman — in light of the fact that Saudi Arabia requires skilled labour — also suggested sending [at least] 50,000 trained people to the Middle-Eastern country," he stressed.

(with PTI inputs)

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