Sporting a cropped white beard and often crowned with a turban, Hamid is a vocal supporter of ISI, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency. In his native Pakistan, Hamid is a regular on TV shows, where he has been critical of the United States, a key Pakistani ally.
In June, Hamid traveled to Saudi Arabia with his wife, where they met other Pakistanis. There, Hamid shared criticism of the kingdom’s airstrikes on Yemen, which have been ongoing since March. But authorities in the ultra-conservative kingdom were quick to notice. Hamid’s swift punishment is typical of what can happen to people in Saudi Arabia who disagree with the tightly-controlled regime.
Earlier this year Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes after he took to his website to mock the kingdom’s religious police. He was initially whipped in a public square, sparking a global outcry that brought Saudi Arabia’s freedom of expression policy under scrutiny.
The kingdom operates under a strict policy of Islamic sharia law, which human rights activists have said is discretionary, meaning it can be used and interpreted at the will of the government.
Saudi Arabia does not have a single independent media outlet operating in the country. According to a 2015 assessment by Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia’s limitations on press freedom was described as a “very serious situation”. The organization has called for Badawi’s release, saying three years in prison has been “more than adequate” for what he was accused of doing.
According to Pakistani channel Din News, Hamid has already received 150 lashes. Unfortunately, similarly to other cases related to freedom of expression victims in Saudi Arabia, verified information regarding the trial and sentence can hardly be obtained.