Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi Shiite cleric and influential leader Muqtada al-Sadr has urged all Shia militias, including his own, to hand their weapons to the Iraqi government, and to abstain from competition at the upcoming elections.
In a televised speech aired by NRTTV on Monday, Sadr urged the government to “prevent using the name of the Popular Mobilization Forces in the next elections”
He called for “limiting weapons to the hands of the state”, and to disarm paramilitary forces, including PMFs and his own Saraya al-Salam troops.
“Before turning Saraya al-Salam into a services organization, the government has to take care of the families of its martyrs, treat their inured and incorporate a part of them in the military,” he said.
Sadr, in his speech, ordered Saraya al-Salam to hand over weapons to the state, close their offices, except for those of civilian purposes, and to evacuate from recaptured areas, except for Samarra.
Sadr, a firebrand cleric and political leader, in charge of his own militia, has been seeking to embolden his image as a nationalist figure whose orientations can transcend sectarian calculations and militia influences. He has led several massive protests in Baghdad this year calling for reform and countering corruption.
Iraq has slated parliamentary and municipal elections for May 12th, becoming the first to be held after the elimination of Islamic State militants from the country.
Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reiterated that “no armed faction has the right to partake in the elections”. His assertions come at odds with occasional statements by PMF commanders who insist that a number of factions would even run in the elections.
Popular Mobilization Forces, an alliance of volunteer Shia paramilitary forces, have actively backed the Iraqi government’s military campaign against IS since 2014, when they were formed upon a top Shia clergy edict to counter the Sunni Jihadist group.
PMF won official recognition as a national force late 2016, becoming under the command of the prime minister, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces.