Shia protesters oppose Pakistan’s involvement in Saudi-led coalition

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of people joined a Shia-led protest in Islamabad on Friday against the government’s decision to Saudi Arabia’s coalition against extremism, as Riyadh’s foreign minister ended a two-day visit to the country.

The protesters presented a memorandum to the Foreign Office spokesman demanding Pakistan to drop out of the alliance, which was announced in December and is seen as the latest sign of a more assertive foreign policy by the Saudi kingdom, the dominant Muslim power in the Middle East.

“Neither the Pakistan army nor the nation is for rent, we will oppose any attempts to sell the army to the house of Saud for a few billion riyals,” said Shia activist Gul-e-Zahra, addressing the Friday’s rally.

Pakistan announced on Thursday they would join the Saudi-led military alliance to fight “terrorism” in the Islamic world, following a meeting between Riyadh’s foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Saudi Arabia announced the coalition last month, naming Pakistan as a member, but Islamabad had initially reacted cautiously saying it needed further details before deciding the extent of its participation.

In a separate rally in the capital, an estimated 1,500 people chanted slogans against Saudi’s execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on January 2, which sparked a deepening crisis between Riyadh and Tehran.

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