According to a centuries-old tradition, barren women who worship at the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Daula, in Gujrat, Pakistan, will become fertile. But unless they donate their first-born child to the shrine as an oblate, all their subsequent children will be born disabled.
Claims are made that the tradition has been used as the foundation for a trade in the donated children, who are deliberately disfigured and sold to professional beggars by the shrine's guardians, although the shrine is now controlled by the government of Pakistan. It has been claimed that the disfigurements are caused by a genetic abnormality, but studies show that the children are unrelated to each other.
There may be as many as 10,000 of these people, most in the province of Punjab and the city of Gujrat.
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