Iraq's top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al Sistani says the government must show it is seeking genuine reform and actual change to combat corruption.
Weekly rallies have been staging in Iraq during the past few weeks, demanding for much needed reform and development but not just introduce temporary measures that wouldn’t permanently solve the nation’s deep rooted problems.
In a message delivered by a representative in Friday’s sermon, Grand al Sistani warned Iraqi protesters of groups seeking to hijack their movement to other interests.
Sistani’s comments were delivered in the Iraqi predominantly Shiite city of Karbala south of Baghdad, just hours before thousands of Iraqis were scheduled to rally in Baghdad and a string of other cities to demand better services and an end to corruption.
The weekly rallies began last month pressed for basic services like power, water and medical care, as well as an end to corruption and sectarian politics, the rallies chanted.
Followers of fellow senior Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, were also called on by their leader to join the weekly rallies in Baghdad's central Tahrir square.
Sistani addressed the government and said that it is "truthfully and seriously" responding to demands for change.
"Citizens have experienced past promises that were never realized on the ground," he cautioned.
"Officials must work differently this time around and win the trust of the citizens."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi approved a brand new package of reforms in response to the rallies. The package entailed reduction in his cabinet size, Abadi also eliminated the three vice presidencies and the three deputy prime minister posts. He also ordered a revision of the government's pay scale and the annulment of financial perks enjoyed by senior officials, lawmakers and consultants.
"I will not back down," Abadi vowed in televised comments this week.
"There is no going back on reforms. Our political system needs popular pressure to reform itself."
Abadi described the constitution as "incomplete” and said he would seek a popular mandate to amend it.
The Iraqi army, along with Shiite militias backed by US air strikes are battling the widespread ISIS militants in the country.