According to well-placed sources, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has invited Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif, who is considered close to the royal family, and his brother Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to perform Umrah as a gesture of goodwill. Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be done at any time of the year, unlike the Hajj which has a set time.
Nawaz Sharif, a three-time former prime minister, has been in self-imposed exile in London on medical grounds since November 2019. Along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other family members, he is expected to depart for Saudi Arabia via a special plane on April 11. Nawaz Sharif is said to be the royal guest during his stay in the kingdom.
The sources further added that Nawaz Sharif would spend the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan in Medina and Mecca, the two holiest cities in Islam. However, the final schedule of his visit has not been announced yet.
It is worth mentioning that several ministers and parliamentarians from Pakistan are also planning to perform Umrah during this period.
This invitation from the Saudi royal authorities to Nawaz Sharif, who is known to have a cordial relationship with the royal family, is seen as a positive step towards strengthening the bilateral ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The two countries have long enjoyed close diplomatic and economic relations, and Saudi Arabia has been a significant source of investment and aid for Pakistan over the years.
Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia may also have political implications, as his party, the PML-N, is one of the major political forces in Pakistan. The party has been in opposition since the 2018 general elections, and its leadership has been vocal in its criticism of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
In conclusion, Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia for Umrah as a royal guest is a significant development in the context of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations. It remains to be seen how this visit will impact the political situation in Pakistan, particularly in the context of the ongoing power struggle between the PML-N and the PTI.