A group of Pakistani pilgrims have accosted, heckled and chanted slogans at Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his entourage at the Masjid-i-Nabwi in Madina during their three-day visit — their first foreign trip since assuming office — to Saudi Arabia.
The premier along with his delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday at the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He is accompanied by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Miftah Ismail, Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Khawaja Asif, Chaudhry Salik Hussain, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Mohsin Dawar and Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, among others.
The officials landed in the country on Thursday afternoon and later offered prayers at the Prophet's Mosque.
However, unfortunate scenes were witnessed at the holy mosque yesterday when PM Shehbaz and his delegation arrived there. According to videos circulating on social media, Pakistani pilgrims at the mosque started chanting slogans of "chor" (thieves) as soon as they saw the prime minister.
In another video, the pilgrims could be seen heckling and chanting abusive slogans against federal ministers Marriyum Aurangzeb and Shahzain Bugti, as the pair are escorted by Saudi guards. In another video, a pilgrim pulled Bugti's hair from behind.
Later, in a video message in response to the chants, Aurangzeb said this act was perpetrated by a "select group", while most Pakistanis respected the sanctity of the holy mosque. "I don’t want to name the person responsible for this incident because I don’t want to use this holy land for political purposes."
She also said she had prayed for guidance for such people. "However, it will take time for us to fix the ways in which these people have damaged our society and we can only do that through a positive attitude," the minister added.
The events were condemned by Pakistan Ulema Council chairman Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, who said Muslims were meant to bow their heads and lower their voices in Masjid-i-Nabwi instead of raising dirty slogans and hurling allegations on the 27th of Ramazan.
Meanwhile, politicians and other religious figures condemned the incident on Twitter and some blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, sister of newly appointed Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, said that PTI was inciting "intolerance and divisiveness".
Religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jameel also tweeted that the protest at the holy mosque wasn't "acceptable in Islam".
Finance Minister Miftah Ismail called the event a "new low" in Pakistani politics.
Meanwhile, PTI General Secretary Asad Umar asserted that respecting the sanctity of holy places was a must for everyone.