Tens of thousands of Pakistanis marched on Sunday against a recent, controversial deal between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel meant to normalize bilateral relations, including opening embassies in each other's territory.

Rallies and demonstrations were held in the capital Islamabad, port city of Karachi, northeastern city of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Multan, Hyderabad, and dozens of other cities and towns on the call of Milli Yakjehti Council, a religio-political alliance.

In the garrison city of Rawalpindi, thousands marched through the city's thoroughfares led by Senator Sirajul Haq, chief of the country's mainstream, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party.

The JI observed the day as "Palestine Day" to express solidarity, and support the Palestinians' resistance against Zionist occupation [since at least 1967].

Carrying banners, and placards with slogans such as "Down with Israel," "UAE-Israel deal on US pressure unacceptable," and "Pakistanis stand with Palestinians," among others, the protesters gathered at the historic Liaquat park to begin the rally.

Addressing the participants, Haq said Palestine was not the issue of Arabs only but the entire Muslim world.

"Palestine is the land of Palestinians. No deal or backtracking can deprive them of their fundamental right," he said. "Palestinians have been fighting for their land for over 70 years. But, until Aug.13 [2020] no country has disgraced itself as UAE has done... the entire Muslim world rejects this so-called deal, even if some Muslim governments accept it."

The party chief urged Islamabad to try convening an urgent meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the latest situation.

In Karachi, hundreds gathered outside the Karachi Press Club to denounce the deal.

JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman termed the deal a big blow to Muslim unity, and "backstabbing of Palestinians."

He said neither the UAE nor any other country had the right to accept Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in the name of "peace."

The JI held another protest outside the Lahore Press Club, which was addressed by the party's secretary general, Ameerul Azim, and other leaders.

In Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a large number of people gathered at the historic Mahabat Khan Mosque, and marched towards Yadgar Chowk, to register their protest.

The agreement is the third Israeli-Arab peace treaty in the Middle East, and the first involving a Gulf state. While some have welcomed the deal, Palestinians, Iran and Turkey have denounced it.

Telephone service begins between Israel, UAE after deal

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made a phone call with his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Sunday, their first in the wake of a controversial deal to establish diplomatic ties between the two countries. 

According to the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, the two top diplomats underlined the importance of abiding by the normalization agreement.

No further details, however, were given about their conversation.

Following Sunday’s call, both countries can exchange landline calls.

Meanwhile, Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Handel congratulated the UAE for removing blocks to Israeli websites.

"Many economic opportunities will open now, and these trust-building steps are important towards advancement of interests of [both] states," Handel said.

Ofir Akunis, Israel's Regional Cooperation Minister, said the agreement with UAE "will boost the Israeli economy and will lead to many significant development opportunities in the fields of solar energy, technology, advanced agriculture and in other fields."

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced a deal between the UAE and Israel to normalize their relations.

The development marks only the third time an Arab nation has opened full diplomatic ties with Israel, and the Emirates is now the first Gulf Arab state to do so. Other Arab nations with diplomatic ties with Israel are Egypt and Jordan.

The signing ceremony for the normalization deal is expected to take place in the White House in September.

Palestinian groups have denounced the new agreement, saying it does nothing to serve the Palestinian cause and ignores the rights of the Palestinian people. The UAE's peace deal with Israel is a “treacherous stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” Hamas said in a statement.