Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif says Islamabad will quit a controversial Saudi-led coalition if it becomes "sectarian," as the military bloc continues its aggression against the impoverished nation of Yemen, particularly the Shia Houthi Ansarullah movement there.
“Pakistan does not wish to be a part of any sectarian alliance,” the minister told lawmakers in the senate, the upper house of the parliament.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Pakistani minister said Islamabad had not issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the former army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to assume the command of the coalition.
The remarks come after some sources earlier said the Pakistani government had cleared the former army chief to take up the job as the head of the coalition following a formal request from Saudi Arabia.
The news of the controversial appointment sparked controversy in the country and was strongly denounced by some politicians, retired army officers and intellectuals, as well as Shia and moderate Sunni Muslim leaders.
Opposition lawmakers consider the decision a violation of a parliamentary resolution passed in April 2015 that called for Pakistan to maintain a policy of neutrality, particularly in the Saudi aggression against Yemen. The Saudi campaign, which allegedly seeks to restore Yemen's ex-government to power, has killed over 12,000 Yemenis, according to the latest tallies.
Pakistan had initially found itself in the crosshairs as Saudi Arabia named it as part of its newly formed military alliance, without first getting its consent.
In December 2015, Saudi Defense Minister Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the formation of an alliance of Muslim-majority countries, which now numbers 40. Riyadh claims the alliance has been formed to fight extremist groups such as the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.