Pakistan Supreme Court scraps graduation condition for legislators

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Islamabad, Apr 22 : Declaring it as a 'negation of fundamental rights' as enshrined in Pakistan's Constitution, the country's Supreme Court has scrapped the graduation condition for legislators imposed by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002.

The order came from a seven-judge bench of the apex court at the end of two-day hearing of a petition jointly filed by JUI-F members Mohammad Nasir Mehmood and Shameer Ahmed.

In its short order, the court said that the graduation degree was "inconsistent" with articles 17 (freedom of association) and 25 (equality of citizen) of the Pakistan Constitution.

At President Pervez Musharraf's insistence, a five-member bench of the Court had on July 11, 2002 upheld the graduation condition for legislators on a petition moved by the PML-Q, the then ruling party. Article 8(A) of the Chief Executive Order No 17, Section 99 (1)(CC) was inserted into the Representation of Peoples Act 1976, making it mandatory for every candidate to be at least a graduate in any discipline or holder of a degree recognised by the Higher Education Commission.

MMA Senator Kamran Murtaza who represented the petitioners termed the apex court's verdict a good decision. "It has struck down an incorrect law introduced to benefit only one per cent of the total population of 160 million people," the Dawn quoted him as saying.

Pakistan's Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum described the graduation condition as a "one-man law" made in negation of democracy and political justice. "If someone has a bachelor degree, does it mean that he is also well versed with the legislation process," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Aslam Khaki, an Islamic jurist, who through an application had supported the graduation condition, said : "I will file a review against the order. I still believe that the law on the condition of graduation is protected under the Constitution and, therefore, this court has no jurisdiction to examine its validity."

By making the order prospective, great discrimination had been made to those who could not participate in 2008 elections because of this condition, he added.

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