KARACHI (Reuters Life!) - For many Muslims, Ramadan is a time of generosity, prompting thousands of poor Pakistanis to turn to begging just for the holy month. This year, however, the police are determined to put an end to the practice.
Authorities in Karachi have launched a crackdown on the thousands of so-called professional Ramadan alms-seekers who swell the ranks of the city's already sizeable beggar population, a government official said on Wednesday.
Muslims traditionally give more alms to the poor during Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar.
Karachi, a city of more than 16 million people, is the Pakistan's commercial capital and home to numerous beggars.
But as Ramadan approaches, thousands more travel to the city from other parts of the country, particularly from rural areas, and they can be seen along roads, particularly at traffic intersections and in markets.
"They are all professional beggars," said senior city government official Azhar Hashmi, adding that the beggars travel to Karachi in search of better "business" during Ramadan.
The government has been detaining 500 to 600 beggars a day since the crackdown began shortly before Ramadan started on August 23, Hashmi said.
"We take out trucks every day and pick up the beggars from traffic signals and markets and drop them at the Edhi village," he said, referring to a charity center outside the city.
One beggar justified his actions, saying everyone made more money during Ramadan.
"Go to the market and you will see everything is being sold at higher prices, so why can't we earn more?" said Ghulam Hussain as he waited by a traffic light.
"Ramadan is a blessed month for everyone, including us," said Khan, who said he had come to Karachi from Punjab province last month.
Reporting by Faisal Aziz; editing by Robert Birsel and Miral Fahmy