Pakistan Supreme Court Tuesday barred candidates with degree from madaris or religious schools from contesting local elections, saying that their degrees are not equivalent to the education required for candidates.
The candidates are required to have matriculation (class 10th) and the court observed that candidates obtaining certificates from religious schools without passing English, Pakistan Studies and Urdu are not qualified for local government polls.
The first round of three-phased local government elections will be held on Aug. 18 and the verdict will bar many candidates belonging to Islamic groups.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry headed the three- member bench of the apex court in Lahore, capital of Punjab province.
The court held that religious institutions' certificate holders should pass English, Urdu and Pakistan Studies exams from their respective secondary boards and then their certificates would be accepted equivalent to the matriculation exam.
Attorney General of Pakistan Makhdoom Ali Khan appearing before the court bench submitted that the government-run University Grants Commission has declared that three compulsory subjects including English, Urdu and Pakistan Studies should be passed by the religious institutions.
Islamic parties have challenged a decision by the Lahore High Court, barring degree holders from Islamic schools to contest local elections.
Majority of the members of parliament belonging to the alliance of Islamic groups hold degrees from religious institutions. Their degrees have also been challenged in the Supreme Court but the case has been pending for two years.
Legal experts regard that the Supreme Court verdict is likely to create problems for members of parliament who possess degrees from religious schools.