Baghdad: Iraq's parliament approved a law on Saturday that will transform Popular Mobilisation forces, a coalition of militias that played a role in fighting IS, into a legal and separate military corps.
Disagreements over the paramilitary units are complicating efforts to pull Iraq together as forces battle to defeat IS, the ultra-hardline group that overran a third of the country in 2014.
All blocks of the majority community in parliament voted for the bill in a session boycotted by lawmakers from the minority community who object to the existence of armed forces outside the army and police.
Popular Mobilisation or Hashid Shaabi was accused of abuses against civilians in towns and villages retaken from IS, according to international human rights groups and the UN Human Rights Commissioner.
"I don't understand why we need to have an alternative force to the army and the police," said member of parliament (MP) Raad Al Dahlaki. "As it stands now, it would constitute something that looks like Iran's Revolutionary Guard," he added.
Iraqi forces started an offensive on October 17 to capture Mosul, IS's last major city stronghold in Iraq, with air and ground support from a US-led coalition. Kurdish and Popular Mobilisation forces are supporting the offensive.
The law does not say how many fighters will be incorporated under the legalised Popular Mobilisation corps, which currently claims to have more than 110,000 fighters, or define the breakdown between members from the different communities.
The government says between 25,000 and 30,000 members of the Hashid are tribal fighters and nearly all the rest units belonged to the majority community and others minorities.
The Kurds have their own military force, called Peshmerga, deployed in the Kurdish autonomous area in northern Iraq.
The law provides for Popular Mobilisation to report directly to the prime minister.
The army reports to the defence minister although the position has been vacant since the sacking by parliament of Khaled Al Obeidi in August.