BAGHDAD, Iraq, - The Iraqi parliament passed, Saturday, a draft law legalising the predominantly Shiite paramilitary units of Hashd Shaabi, despite protests by most Sunni lawmakers, a parliament official said.

The National Alliance, an umbrella Shiite parliamentary bloc, backed by some Kurdish and independent lawmakers, managed to collect the majority votes needed, to pass the controversial law, despite the Sunni Arab lawmakers' wish, to postpone the vote, because they believe that the draft still needs amendment, to be accepted by all.

The Sunni lawmakers walked out of the session, in protest of the vote on the Hashd Shaabi law, saying that, the vote lacks consensus among political blocs, as the blocs are accustomed to haggling before voting on controversial laws.

Before the session, the parliament halls witnessed intense debate between the political blocs over the details of the draft law, pushing the Parliament Speaker, Salim al-Jubouri, to ask the vote to be delayed to coming sessions, but his demand was fiercely rejected by the Shiite lawmakers, the official said.

The law considers the Hashd Shaabi units, under the control of the Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi forces, to be parallel to the security forces, because the units will not be related to the defence or the interior ministries, as the Sunni Arabs wanted.

The Sunni bloc of Mutahidoun for Reform, believed that the law would empower the Hashd Shaabi units, which are loyal to different religious and political parties, and moreover, could make the units more powerful than the Iraqi army itself, threatening stability of the country.

For his part, Abadi hailed the approval of the draft law, which was crucial to preserve the rights of those "young men and the elderly heroic fighters, whose sacrifices must be rewarded."

The Hashd al-Shaabi was formed upon a call by Iraq's most revered Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the summer of 2014, when the Daesh militants captured large parts of Iraq's northern and western regions. Sistani urged civilians to take up arms and fight the radical Sunni group against further expansion.

Iraqi Sunni minority have been opposing the existence of the predominantly Shiite armed groups and complained that they have conducted abuses against Sunni civilians and their properties, in many cities and towns.-

Source: Nam News Network