Imran Khan charged with blasphemy after Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif abused in Medina
Pakistan’s former premier Imran Khan has been charged with blasphemy alongside 150 others after newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was abused and insulted by alleged supporters of the former leader during an official visit to Saudi Arabia.
The complaint, registered by the Punjab police under the country’s draconian blasphemy law, reportedly cites abuse at Masjid e-Nabawi, reported The Independent.
Masjid e-Nabawi is the Islamic Prophet Muhammad's mosque in Medina, considered the second most sacred place in Islam.
Shehbaz Sharif, the new Pakistani Prime Minister after the alleged US-led-removal of Imran Khan, is in Masjid Nabawi in Madina, causing Pakistani worshippers to swarm him and his people with chants of “thief” and “traitor” pic.twitter.com/haiIRwyKsj— Islam21c (@Islam21c) April 28, 2022
Several videos emerged on social media showing dozens of people raising slogans against Sharif during his visit to the mosque on Thursday.
They show several individuals, reportedly from Pakistan, calling Sharif a "thief" and a "traitor" in abusive language.
Saudi authorities said they have arrested five Pakistani nationals in connection with the incident.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry a potential death sentence or 10 years in prison. Critics say they have regularly been used to persecute Pakistan’s minority communities and suspects have often been attacked or killed by mobs.
Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party denied the charges. The former leader has since distanced himself from the incident, saying "I cannot think of asking anyone to do sloganeering at that sacred place," in an interview with ARY News.
Imran Khan accused the current government of running an "organised campaign" against him. Asad Umar, a former minister in Khan’s cabinet, called the charges "ridiculous" and added that "no one in recent history has fought the case against Islamophobia with more passion, logic and deep conviction than [Imran Khan]".
No one in recent history has fought the case against islamophobia with more passion, logic and deep conviction than @ImranKhanPTI. To file a ridiculous FIR against him trying to show that he had anything to do with disrespect of masjid e nabavi, is condemnable and reprehensible— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) May 1, 2022
Khan was ousted from his position as the country’s Prime Minister in April after losing a parliamentary no-confidence motion. He was replaced by Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was sentenced to 10 years on corruption charges.
He has campaigned against his removal, urging his supporters to protest against Sharif’s government.