Saudi Arabia on Thursday convicted six Pakistani nationals of violating the sanctity of the Masjid-e-Nabwi (Peace Be Upon Him) in Madinah during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s official visit to the Gulf kingdom earlier this year.
According to local media, a court in Madinah sentenced three Pakistani nationals—Anas, Irshad, Muhammad Saleem—to 10 years’ imprisonment, while three others—Khawaja Luqman, Muhammad Afzal, Ghulam Muhammad—were awarded eight-year sentences. In addition, each convict has had their mobile phones confiscated and fined Saudi Riyal 20,000 each.
In April, P.M. Sharif and members of his federal cabinet visited Saudi on his first official tour upon assuming office after a vote of no-confidence ousted Imran Khan as prime minister. On their arrival to Masjid-e-Nabwi in Madinah, they were greeted by a group of protesters—allegedly supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf—loudly chanting slogans against the lawmakers who were attempting to pay their respects at the Roza-e-Rasool (PBUH).
Especially concerning were derogatory slogans directed against Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, and attempts to physically harass Minister for Narcotics Control Shahzain Bugti by pulling his hair. Videos of the incident, several filmed by the protesters themselves, went viral on social media, and prompted calls for legal action to ensure such actions were not repeated in sacred places of worship.
The Saudi government filed cases against the protesters who appeared to be leading the charge shortly after, while Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had announced that he was also considering taking legal action within Pakistan. He had alleged that the protest had been pre-planned at the behest of ousted prime minister Imran Khan and former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, claiming both of them had been making efforts to provoke public sentiments against their rivals.